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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In the News: Visual Representation is Important! Books in the Face of Trump

First- sorry, you guys. I have been negligent- nay, I have abandoned you this fall. There were like 1000 articles and books that I wanted to post, but I didn't and then that backlog was overwhelming. So, starting fresh, dealing with TODAY's issue: DONALD TRUMP.

I don't feel like I need to explain why his vitriol is damaging to people, children and families. Recently, he stated that we should ban Muslims from entering our country until we "figure out what's going on." If you would like to read more, here's an article from the New York Times.

I am lucky to live in a community and work in a school that has many Islamic families. I have talked to some of these families that attend my school over the past couple of weeks about the current climate in the country and how it is effecting them. And, unfortunately but not at all surprisingly, the "Go home!" shouts and dirty looks and stares have escalated.
Page from, "Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors"

So, what can you do in your library or classroom? Do some read alouds with kids- read some folktales, read picture books, open conversation, answer questions. 

I think picture books are important here,because what picture books can do is offer immediate visual representation. I think illustration is powerful in that it opens the doors to questioning in a way that maybe we wouldn't do/allow otherwise, it gives us the space and a silent permission to dig in-maybe a child would be more comfortable asking questions about things that fall outside of our cultural norms (read: hetero/cis/white/christian hegemony) via an illustration representing such things, than asking a real live person . Also, even grown-ups with good intentions (you know where those get you!) might bury real curiosity and the opportunity to learn and grow with, "don't ask that, it is rude!"

This whole blog is set around the "window, mirrors and doors" metaphor. Right now is a prime time to bring this into action...open the door, people, raise that window, educate yuorself and the kids around you. Display books with ***positive*** (not caricatures, folks) Islamic characters prominently. This is passive, yes, but I do find power in this. Also, READ and RECOMMEND these books you are displaying, because displaying isn't enough, though a piece of the puzzle.

Lee & Low in all of their awesomeness has an annotated list to get you started:

BOOK LIST: PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT MUSLIM OR MIDDLE EASTERN CHARACTERS


Don't have a huge budget? Don't know where to start? Here are a couple authors I really like:

Khan's "King for a Day"
Rukhsana Khan is AMAZING! She has been a favorite author of mine and my personal kids for sometime. As a librarian, her books are such good stories and teachers love them too! She also Skypes and the kids love her. A professional and fantastic story teller. Please visit her website: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/ and buy all of her books! If you can't purchase all of them, The Big Red Lollipop and King for a Day will do well for your library. They are gorgeous. I have blogged about The Big Red Lollipop here. If you have a crazy limited budget, go get these two books at least, you will be very happy.


Hena Khan (no relation that I can find) has two very lovely books for our young readers and a website, http://www.henakhan.com/. Her books are really well circulated in my library, especially Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, while this books leans more toward the pre-school set it is checked out often w/ Kindergarten and 1st grade. The illustrations entice my "princess" loving students and it has a lovely intro to Islamic vocabulary and holidays.


Here's a new publisher, support them:
Bharat Babies is a new publishing venture with, "educational media content tailored to the children of the Asian-Indian diaspora". Visit their site and BUY A BOOK, http://bharatbabies.com/. I have two books from them and they are both currently checked out- a commendation, for sure!

So friends, go, go, go... Want more recommendations? I have them! Contact me via Twitter, @ReflectLibrary.
Peace.