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14 August 2013 @ 02:46 pm
words of wisdom  
Christopher Myers writes eloquently about race and children's books here: http://www.hbook.com/2013/08/opinion/young-dreamers/. There has been and will continue to be a great deal of discussion about this topic. In the 1960s, Nancy Larrick wrote a piece called THE ALL WHITE WORLD OF CHILDREN'S BOOKS (http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1965sep11-00063). In the 50 years since then, so little has changed. Yes, there is more diversity, but the numbers are still disappointing. While some are concerned with lexiles and levels, we need all be attending to the need to find books that present more diversity (and that means going well beyond the Exemplar Texts of the CCSS variety).

This passage spoke to me from Myers' article in the Horn Book: "It is a responsibility I hope we share, all of us who love literature and children. It is the responsibility that lies behind the percentages, behind the numbers, beyond the market. When we make books, or write about books, or purchase books, we are affirming a vision of the communities in which we want to live."

COMMUNITIES. That is key. What sort of community do we project when we select books for reading aloud, for displays, for classroom libraries? If we select only those on some ancient list, I fear that we project a rather dry, dull, dusty, and tired community. Do we read widely to help ensure that the books we "bless" (Linda Gambrell's term which I adore) represent a wide array of families, characters, situations? Are we making diversity a priority when it comes to developing our collection? Do we make a concerted effort to add new books that represent not just our own communities but the communities outside of our own small world?

As I work on each successive semester's reading list for children's and YA literature, I challenge myself and question myslef. Do I have a list that reflects the global community? How do I challenge my students to read widely, especially outside of their own comfort zones? The campus bookstore refused to carry the trade books I required because they kept changing each semester. Yes, there are a handful of books always on the lists, but many cycle on and off the lists as I attempt to be as present as broad a representation as possible.

As we create and nurture the communities within our classrooms this year, I hope all of us affirm a vision of the world in which we want to live. Thanks, Christopher Myers, for this reminder of COMMUNITY.
 
 
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