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.
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Friday, June 13, 2014

Leaving Crumbs...

Today was the final meeting with a colleague and the professor that was leading us through our Teacher Action Research project. The project began as simply wanting to understand what a "reflective library" meant to students, specifically boys of color. Did they feel our library was inclusive and they had the availability of books to read that reflected them (interests, culture, physicality, etc.). You can read about some of our conversations in this blog post.

The thing is, I thought (naively) that at the end of these last few months of conversations and reflections, I would have this neat little package with clear answers to my questions. I wanted the kids to feel empowered by their library knowing that their interests and experiences were worth writing about, publishing and displaying prominently. I wanted them to  know what to expect from libraries in general (i.e. an inclusive collection) and feel a sense of belonging. I guess, what I wanted them to get to say was, "Aha! I see! Yes!", by following the clear path I had created for them, but I think I just left a trail of bread crumbs few and far between in a brushy forest.
Library shelfie amongst my picture books.
There is no marked trail.  I am actually left with even more questions. As the school year comes to a close, I hope the summer affords me enough time and space to be more contemplative and critical (constructively so, of course) of  my practice, of how to leave more crumbs on the path of awareness for my students. I hope this pathway leads my students from the library and out into the broader neighborhood equipped with a sense of self and the knowledge that they too are an important and essential component of our community.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Seat At The Table

Wow, what a whirlwind the last few weeks have been. I have so many posts I want to write, but I will just have to settle for one post at a time...

I have also been updating my Delicious account with some regularity. There has been such amazing press about diversity and inclusion in children's literature. I am trying to save articles as I see/read them.

A couple of weeks ago at Simmons College (where I received my MLS) during Children's Book week, I was lucky enough to be part of a discussion about diversity in children's literature. The event was hosted Children's Book Council and Children's Books Boston. Horn book was also there. It was called, "Setting A Place at the Table", read more about it here.

The idea was to speed date with authors that wrote inclusionary books. I, of course, became an immediate fan girl, counting my lucky stars to be at such an event and having meaningful conversations with authors I hold in such high esteem. But, it wasn't just authors that were there, but many librarians, publishers and other children's book related individuals that really rounded out the questions.

Fellow fabulous attendees!

We were given questions to discuss and were led by SEED trained individuals. This led to some honest conversations. Why weren't more inclusive books being published? What were we doing to promote "diverse children's literature"? Having the perspectives of many literacy professionals allowed for reflective thinking on the broader literary world as well as our own practice.

Where I get stumped is the "now what?" I am passionate about giving my students a place in my school's library that is representational. But then what? How else do I empower them to understand that they indeed have a perspective and experience worth living and READING about. How is this message conveyed to a 5 year old, a 7 year old or an 11 year old? I'm working on it, folks...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Series of Series: Amy Hodgepodge

Amy Hodgepodge is a series about a multiracial girl, Amy. From the publisher, "From comedic entertainer Kim Wayans and her writer husband, Kevin Knotts, comes a dynamic chapter book series that gives a face and a voice to multiracial children. Children of all races will identify with Amy Hodgepodge because it deals with universal themes such as feeling "different," being teased, and making new friends. Celebrate what makes you unique with the one and only Amy Hodgepodge!"  

Amy and her family.

I like this series because so many children can identify with the themes presented. It is also is unique for children who are multiracial to find a series that may mirror them. The authors sat down with blogger Honey Smoke a few years ago for an interview. Here's what they had to say about how important it was for children to "see themselves" on a book cover:

 Children, especially those of color, are almost magnetized by the covers of the books, because it’s so rare that they get to see beautiful images of kids that look like them on a book cover!  Sad, but true.

For the rest of the interview, click here. For more information and fun activities for Amy Hodgepodge, click here.