I am an elementary school librarian in an urban setting in Massachusetts. Through the work of creating a more representative and inclusive library collection for my students, I learned a lot about the politics of the publishing industry, the accepted institutional racism and purposeful exclusion of communities in books and that we should be outraged at the continued disenfranchisement of our children.
Follow me on Twitter: @reflectlibrary

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Community

As my Book Bike launch is coming (Check out my fun Book Bike project here.), I have really been reflecting on the power of community and change. This is something that I talk about with all of my students K-5, often through read-alouds like "Magic Trash", "Biblioburro", and "Mama Miti" (from 9 trees in her back yard to nearly 40 million across the green belt!).  But I wonder how many of my students and their families actually feel like their voice is heard and holds importance in our community?

Over the last two years, I have invited public figures, the mayor, city councilors, school committee members and administration to my school library for short intimate talks with students and their families. I serve coffee and do my best to moderate. I love this forum. It is a time to speak your mind and get an immediate response, to field questions and ideas. What I do notice however, is that the same families attend over and over. While their voices and perspectives are indeed important, I worry that only a very myopic view is being represented. How can I change this? Because I operate only within the school day, 8:00-2:45, I struggle to find a more inclusive time. Also, I think about how some people's experiences in and around schools are not positive, already feeling a disassociation or even disenfranchisement with the immediate community. Then of course, there are other time obligations, jobs, interest levels, etc...

Mayor David Maher and School Committee member Fred Fantini talk to parents in the school library.

The Book Bike is an idea that may answer this in a small way. One of my main foci  as a librarian is to empower children as readers, learners and citizens in their world. For many students the access to books over the summer decreases immensely. While Cambridge has an amazing public library system, it is not fair or accurate to assume that students will be able to access it.  Going to where many children are in the summer makes sense. We will travel to 3 parks in Cambridge that will be offering other events, like movement activities and free lunch. Children are already there to play, to move, to eat, and now they will be able to hear a story and take a book home, FREE. I'm excited to see how many people we reach and whether this involves a greater swath of our community.

Follow the Book Bike on twitter: @Book_Bike
Read more about it here: www.cambridgebookbike.org

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Digging In: Magic Trash

This is a book which you can really dig into, it can open conversations about activism, social justice, race relations, segregation, social programs (or lack their of), riots, industry and of course, ART.

Generally, I reserve this as a read aloud until grade 5, because I like to get into the context of the story and really talk about how powerful a message this book has- as well as the man himself, Tyree Guyton.

It also delivers a really concrete example of how art can shift one's view- trash to art, a crack house can be turned into a masterpiece, but certainly not with out struggle. Mr. Guyton changes his neighborhood from the inside out. He is a local activist and his message reaches us all over the country and the world, it is applicable on a grand scale.

Instilling in children the fact that you don't have to travel, have lots of money or go any further than your own block to make a difference is a powerful message. You have power in your own community to affect change, use it!

There are many videos to share with students as well- here's the one I most often use:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6w6WGokjTU


From Amazon:
Tyree Guyton loved his childhood home--that's where his grandpa Sam taught him to "paint the world." So he wanted to wake people up... to make them see Detroit's crumbling communities.

Paintbrush in hand, Tyree cast his artistic spell, transforming everyday junk into magic trash. Soon local kids and families joined Tyree in rebuilding their neighborhood, discovering the healing power of art along the way.

This picture book biography of Tyree Guyton, an urban environmental artist, shows how he transformed his decaying, crime-ridden neighborhood into the Heidelberg Project, an interactive sculpture park. The story spans from Tyree's childhood in 1950s Detroit to his early efforts to heal his community through art in the 1980s. Tyree's awards include Michigan Artist of the Year and International Artist.

MAGIC TRASH offers strong themes of working together, the power of art, and the importance of inspiring community--especially kids--to affect action. The Heidelberg Project is internationally recognized for providing arts education to children and adults and for the ongoing development of several houses on Heidelberg Street. Not only does the Heidelberg Project prove that when a community works together it can rebuild itself, but it also addresses the issues of recycling, environmentalism, and community on a global level.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Diversity Is More Than Skin Color

How exciting- social media, articles, webinars, editorials, blog posts, and books all about how to support diversity in books. Yes! Publishers to buy them from. Yes! Ways to guide discussions around diversity. Yes! Opening doors for our kids through literature. Yes!

This blog, mainly chronicles me, my library and my effort to make a "reflective library" collection. I tend to focus on this blog mainly on the side of racial and cultural diversity, however that does not take away from my efforts to create a diverse library within the realms of gender, GLBTQ, religion, mental illness, family makeup, etc., etc. ETC., ETC. We ALL deserve a reflective library. Come find your book...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks

It's 1:30 on Thursday- where's your hashtag? #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Tweet away!
Follow the reflective library on Twitter: @reflectlibrary
This is me in my library- the quote is by a wonderful co-worker. It really boils down the issue, "We need diverse books because we still need to talk about why we need diverse books." BAM!