Over the weekend (Feb. 7), I taught a breakout session at the Annual Winter Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators here in New York, NY. We were discussing how to write for a diverse audience. My main focus was on helping the audience to remember that no matter what you’re writing, your audience will always be diverse. Too often, writers think that there’s a dichotomy–that there are “multicultural books” that are read by kids of color, and that “everyone else” (meaning, white kids) read “mainstream” (meaning, white) books.
This just isn’t the case. Readers tend to read widely, and kids of color are just like their white peers, reading the most popular books, the books assigned to them in schools, and whatever else they happen to come across that sounds interesting to them. Continue reading →
Yesterday was the ALA Youth Media Awards, or the “Oscars of Children’s Literature” as they’re sometimes called. It was a big day for diversity. Diverse books and authors were honored across the board and we couldn’t be happier. Continue reading →
Emily Chiariello is a Teaching and Learning Specialist with Teaching Tolerance. She has 15 years’ experience as a classroom teacher, professional development and curriculum designer in public, charter and alternative school settings, as well as with non-profit organizations. She holds a master’s degree in philosophy and social policy and is certified in secondary social studies.
Here she discusses Teaching Tolerance’s new curriculum tool, “Project Appendix D,” that empowers educators to identify texts that both meet the demands of the Common Core Standards and reflect the world in which our students live. This blog post was originally posted at the Teaching Tolerance blog.Continue reading →
National Adoption Day this November 22 and National Adoption Month this November afford a time to share experiences and reflect on families. Whether you have students who have been adopted or are part of a family considering adopting a child into your home, all children can benefit from learning about adoption. Children are very curious about each other’s families, quick to categorize into groups, and intent to define what makes a family, well, a family. Continue reading →
Today is Mix It Up At Lunch Day, an annual day started by Teaching Tolerance over a decade ago to encourage kindness and reduce prejudice in schools by encouraging students to sit and have lunch with someone new, one day out of the year. Teaching Tolerance offers some great resources to help schools celebrate Mix It Up At Lunch Day, and we thought we’d add our own list of recommended books that encourage kindness, giving, bravery and open-mindedness!
Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd- A collection of poems showing the many ways individuals can make differences.
Antonio’s Card written by Rigoberto González and illustrated by Cecilia Álvarez – Antonio’s classmates make fun of Leslie, Antonio’s mother’s partner because of her paint-spattered overalls. Antonio decides to make a card for his mother and her partner.
First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch – Abaani, a Maasai boy, sees a Kikuyu boy, Haki, tending a new fruit and vegetable stall alongside the road and they take an immediate dislike to each other. A short while later, a dangerous situation arises near Haki’s stall and Abaani and Haki must overcome their differences and work together.
King for a Day written by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Christiane Krömer – Malik wants to become the king of the kite festival, Basant. Using his kite Falcon, Malik becomes the king of Basant! When he sees a bully take a kite from a girl, Malik uses Falcon to give her a nice surprise.
On October 11, 2014, I attended a colloquium called Mind the Gaps, hosted by The Horn Book at Simmons College in Boston. There was an all-star line up consisting of Peter Brown (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild), Gene Luen Yang (Boxers and Saints), Andrew Smith (Grasshopper Jungle), and Steve Sheinkin (The Port Chicago 50), to name a few. Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief of The Horn Book, played a big part in pulling all these folks together for a day.
One of the highlights was the keynote by author/librarian Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (No Crystal Stair). Here’s a snippet from her speech:
“We are here at Simmons trying to solve this problem while one of the biggest stories in the news is that Apple released a new iPhone. Yet ALA struggles to get a one-minute spot on one network to announce the nation’s most prestigious children’s book awards. Is this our world now? To quote one of my favorite library patrons, ‘Have we dumbed down society so much that what is truly significant is not considered important?’ This conversation is significant. So how do we make it important?”
The temperature has already started to drop and we’re seeing Halloween candy popping up in the grocery stores, so that means a new batch of books for the fall season! Here are three new picture books out this week. We can’t wait to hear what you think of them!
Lend a Hand is a collection of fourteen original poems, each emphasizing the compassion and the joy of giving. Representing diverse voices—different ages and backgrounds—the collection shows the bridging of boundaries between people who are often perceived as being different from one another. Written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd.
Recently The New York Times paired articles by Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher Myers, discussing the lack of representation of people of color in children’s literature. Those excellent articles—which pointed out that in the long history of children’s literature we haven’t made much progress—caught the attention of best-selling author Jennifer Weiner, who started the #colormyshelf hashtag on Twitter asking for suggestions of diverse books that she could go purchase for her daughter. What a wonderful way to bring attention to what parents can do!
Just because diverse books don’t always show up front and center in bookstores doesn’t mean they don’t exist.Here’s a list of places to find great diverse books for young readers. Buy them, read them, recommend them. Showing demand for diverse books is one of the best ways to encourage the publication of more of them!
1. Publishers: Several small publishers (us included) focus on diverse books. They’re a great place to start, and you can usually buy books from them directly, order them through an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or ask your local bookstore to order them (which also displays a demand for diverse titles):
Lee & Low Books (diverse books for young readers featuring a range of cultures) Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low (diverse middle grade and young adult speculative fiction) Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low (bilingual English/Spanish picture books)
Jane M. Gangi is Associate Professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York, where she is a member of the Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning (CELL); CELL is working with Student Achievement Partners to make Appendix B of the Common Core more inclusive of multicultural literature. She is the children’s literature section editor for the Connecticut Reading Association Journal, and Routledge will publish her third book, Genocide in Contemporary Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Cambodia to Darfur in November.
Most educators realize children need to see themselves in text to become proficient readers and to develop healthy identities. When our classroom library collections largely contain books with white characters, white children have more opportunities to become proficient readers and to develop healthy identities. Rudine Sims Bishop (1990) described books that are “windows”—those that offer “views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange” that children “only have to walk through” imaginatively. “Mirror” books are those in which “literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience” (n. p.). What if we could embrace children of color with mirror texts, provide white children with window books (for too long it’s been the reverse), and teach writer’s craft simultaneously?
Writer’s craft is part of writer’s workshop. In a mini-lesson, a teacher might read aloud a beautifully written book and then ask children to respond to what they notice about the author’s writing. Often children notice the format of a book and come up with evocative phrases, images, and sentences they observe in the book. If, however, they do not discover writer’s craft on their own, teachers can help them see components of writer’s craft.