Friday, February 20, 2015

brown girl dreaming ~ deserves all of her medals

Color Your World

(this is what happened while I was trying to find the words for a diversity post)

Children's Book Awards and a Grant Opportunity

Working on a grant proposal, thinking outcomes, facing deadlines, finding all the right words for all the right places, (thank you Meghan Trainor), is both challenging and time consuming. I'm looking at the serious subject of race, discovering the value of home and family, looking for ways to encourage young girls to find their voice and learning what defines them. Yet the more I research and uncover the more unsure I am of my skill to lead a group of tweens in this weighty discussion. The spectrum of racist behavior is more than my heart can handle.  I'm looking at the Civil Rights Movement in the United States for historical background for Jacqueline Woodson's amazing fictionalized memoir ~ Brown Girl Dreaming. I have a miracle of a book for book discussion, a good program idea to partner it with but maybe this is going to hurt too much.  I attended school in the 50's, 60's and 70's.  Black and white kids were bused into my school.  Maybe this proposal is too personal. I just don't know.  

(Now let's step away from that.  Here's the post I planned on writing!)
For the past two months I've been mentally writing a blog post regarding the positive steps made by publishers with regard to more diversity in children's picture books. I truly believed that the stories were being written, being submitted, but publishers needed to hear our cry.  Publish them! We, the people, we-the libraries, we-the schools and we-the parents on FB on Twitter, on Youtube needed to shout - #WeNeedDiverseBooks.  And alleluia, the publishers heard us!  

Here's an interesting article from the UW - Madison's CCBC

Diversity remains an important topic for all of us working with children in a variety of settings. Selecting diverse songs, books, flannels and props is my part, "our part" as storytellers, programmers and librarians for children. 

When I first found my beautiful dark skinned little girl puppet, Tanika, I practiced her voice again and again before she debuted in story time. I had to be comfortable with her. Comfort, respect and creating a genuine little girl was important.  She was shipped from Colorado, so her back story is that I adopted her from Colorado.  

I drew on the childhood of my niece Vivian, she is biracial, to find Tanika's voice and personality.  The story time kids loved Tanika even before she arrived.  I had informed our families that Piper and I were adopting a little girl, Tanika, from Colorado. And we all waited and waited.  I wanted everyone to love Tanika as much as I do.  She's been with me for a number of years but she is forever three.  She loves hearts, her hair with bows and barrettes, and purple is her favorite color.  My intention was to create casual diversity.  Tanika's skin color is not the issue.  She is part of my family, our library family, and a great pal to all the kids in story time. 

This is what I see as doing our part.  I can not wave a wand over the library and create a perfectly diverse staff, ( I don't even know what that would be), but I can make my story time room diverse each day to meet the needs of the diverse families attending.  This is "our part"

When selecting books for the branch I take the time to be sure that casual diversity leads the way in picture books.  It is here - in the picture books and the board books where I can make a huge difference for my community.  Children want to see themselves in the library books.  We now have well written books, meaningful stories, beautifully illustrated with children of color.  I would like to say that "children of color" is not the important part of the book but it is exactly the important part of the book.  The characters are of color and their race is not part of the story.  This is casual diversity done well. And it's about darn time, publishers.  Oh, and thank you.

And now here - I want to hug the publishers.  We do not have enough kids of color on the covers of juvenile non-ficiton.  Thank you for this series.  And just so you know - they are popular and always circulating.  I believe that parents and teachers are breathing a giant sigh of relief.  Casual diversity on the covers of non-fiction.  Finally.  ('Cuz it's not only white kids who do magic, and craft and enjoy science projects)

And there will always be beautiful books where diversity is intentional.  This is how we learn and experience other cultures.  These are a couple of new ones in my branch.

It's "our part" right?  To find the casual and the intentional diversity that matches our library's needs?  

I have written before about the tremendously diverse neighborhood my little branch serves.  The many cultures I encounter each day may indeed make me more aware and sensitive to what has been lacking in children's publishing.  The tide is changing.  I am so grateful.
(btw Green is a Chile Pepper won a Pura Belpre illustrator award)

Now what do I do with the tweens and Brown Girl Dreaming? 
I think I need some more time with this idea.  

Did you see that cover art on the book?  

Seems almost magical to have a cover with all that open space for medals - Coretta Scott King author award, National Book Award, Newbery Honor and Sibert Honor - wow!    

P.S.(Piper Script)
Just in case you are new to Piper Loves the Library  - here's a few more places where we visited diversity:

1 comment:

  1. Jane, what did you do? I have been tasked to develop a program for this book for our 6-12th graders. I'm really struggling.


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