professornana (professornana) wrote,
professornana
professornana

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keeping the channel open

I have reared two sets of teens a generation apart. That is why I have crazy colors in my hair: it is the only thing that covers the gray hairs this has caused. I think I approached the second batch (the residents of the back bedroom as I call them) with a different perspective. I chose my battles more carefully. I also knew when to shut down the conversation. There is no use continuing a discussion or argument when one of the parties begins to be manipulative. What does this have to do with books and reading you might ask?

Well, unless you have taken a break from social media over the past couple of weeks, you are aware that a great deal of discussion has centered around a couple of titles which are appearing on best books lists. The discussion includes a charge of racism in each book. You can read more here (http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/) and here (http://blogs.slj.com/heavymedal/2015/11/02/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-childrens-books/). Many are hesitating to become involved in the discussion because it is not always reasoned. Just this weekend, some folks were criticized for using their powerful voices to promote racist books. When this happens, the conversation ends. Reason is abandoned in favor of passion.

Before I lost heart, though, that this would descend into the maelstrom of past social media debacles, I returned to Roger Sutton's post here (http://www.hbook.com/2015/10/opinion/editorials/editorial-were-not-rainbow-sprinkles/#_). Read the comments section (it is quite lengthy) and see the thoughtful discussion that takes place there. Respectful, deliberate, responsive. THIS is much more helpful than some of the more pointed tweets and posts I saw flung back and forth.

Debbie Reese called for educators to remember that their responsibility is to the kids in the classroom and not to authors and illustrators whose works we like. I wonder, then, about taking A FINE DESSERT into the classroom and having the discussion with kids. I know some fine educators who are doing just that. I know others, like my colleagues, who are sitting and having a discussion about this as well. As I prepare a session on the need for diverse books for a conference, I am thinking about how to include this discussion as part of our time together.

What I hope happens here is that the discourse will mirror that of what is taking place here (http://www.hbook.com/2015/10/opinion/editorials/editorial-were-not-rainbow-sprinkles/#_). I want to know more. I want to learn more. I do that best when I am not placed in a defensive position. If we go back to my opening analogy here, I want to keep the channel open. I want to keep the discussion reasoned. I want to show and give respect.

BSP warning: I asked Debbie Reese and Ebony Elizabeth Thomas to write about some of the questions and issues we tackle for my column in THE ALAN REVIEW. You can access this column here: http://www.alan-ya.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/J68-72-ALAN-Sum15.pdf.
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