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Tag Archives: Diversity

Cool Stuff: Vol. 2 Issue 3

Just two links this week:

This first one is to Lee and Low Book’s February booklist. It includes tons of book titles for Black History Month, Rosa Parks’ birthday and more. All diverse title, too. 

Here’s a great post from Eltern Vom Mars, a German Montessori blog. They are working on initial sounds with their toddler and we’re starting to do that too. This post shows a sorting game that reinforces initial sounds and it quite clever. Note that the blog is in German so the sorting is not for English words, but German ones. 

For Your Bookshelf: Friendship

This year for Valentine’s Day I thought I would compile a list of our favorite books about friendship. There are a lot of different kinds of love and while Valentine’s Day tends to be about romantic love, I think kids click more with friendship. 

I tried my best to get books that have been tested extensively by my focus group (Cam) and that feature diversity either in their authorship or in the story. I have to admit Cam and I are naturally drawn to books featuring animals as the characters, but there are a couple in there with people too. Last year I posted my two all-time favorite Valentine’s Day books which you can see here. I still love them, but for the sake of keeping with diversity and in order not to repeat myself I did not include them here. 

Valentine's Books 1

Hooray for Hat written and illustrated by Brian Won

A sweet story about cheering up when you feel grumpy. The end twists when lion says he can’t feel happy when their friend giraffe feels bad, so all the animal friends come up with a way to make him feel better. 

Little Elliot, Big City written and illustrated by Mike Curato

I think this is a pretty deep story and the illustrations are stunning. On the surface, though, this is a story about finding a friend in a big city. One who is small like you and understands how hard it is to be small, but together you make a team.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster written and illustrated by Mo Willems

 Leonardo may be a terrible monster, but after scaring someone (finally!) the little boy begins to cry. Leonardo makes a decision to be a terrible monster, but a good friend. Mo Willems always turns out wonderful stories and this is no exception. 

Hug Me written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

A quirky friendship story. Felipe the tiny cactus lives with a prickly family. All he really wants is a hug, but no one in his family understands that. After an incident with a balloon, Felipe sets out on his own, deciding he’s fine without friends or family. But one day he hears someone crying and when he finds a sad little rock, well, he knows just what to do. End papers begin with Feilpe’s austere and imposing family tree and end with snapshots of the two new friends, Felipe and Carnilla. 

Valentine's Books 2 The Other Side written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

From the award-winning Jacqueline Woodson, a subtle and beautiful story about friendship crossing racial boundaries. While the story of two girls meeting and striking up a simple friendship is quiet, the message is incredibly profound. I think the story is fine for all ages, but certainly with older children you can talk about the symbolism of the fence. 

One Love written by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Newton

A beautiful little book that celebrates community. Neighbors comes together to build a community garden. The words are adapted lyrics from Bob Marley’s song “One Love”.

Best Friends for Frances written by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

I adore Frances. She operates with perfect kid-logic and this story showcases that beautifully. Albert has excluded her from some of his games so Frances decides she’ll exclude him and she and her sister Gloria set out to have a picnic. Albert gets wind of the picnic hamper and wants to come along. Frances decides to let him join in, because things are always more fun with friends. 

The Lion and the Bird written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc

This is one of my all-time favorites. It’s nearly wordless, but has the most wonderful illustrations that convey a range of emotions. When Bird is hurt, Lion takes her in for the winter. The two become fast friends, but when spring returns Bird wants to return to her flock. Lion lets her go, but is still sad. Fall brings Bird back to Lion and they enjoy another winter together. It’s such a gentle story, but it’s incredibly powerful with themes of the power of the friendship bond. 

Decolonize Your Bookshelf: Puppets and Blocks

Decolonize Your Bookshelf

The two books I have to share this month are STEAM related, meaning they tap into art and science themes, concepts, and ideas. They are less about explicit diversity, but are excellent examples of incidental diversity, where they feature diversity without focusing on it. 

I would also like to mention that Lee & Low Books, a publisher that puts out high quality, diverse children’s books, is compiling monthly lists of diverse children’s literature for each month. Here is the link to the January list, it includes books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and diverse titles for National Hobby Month. It’s a really fantastic list and highly recommend checking it out. 

 PuppetsAshley Bryan’s Puppets by Ashely Bryan, pictures edited by Rich Entel

Ashely Bryan’s Puppets is a collection of poems Bryan wrote to accompany the puppets he creates from beach trash. Bryan combs the beaches near his house for bits of natural and manmade garbage- from cloth to bones to shells to glass- and then uses them to create these amazing puppets. He gives each one a name and has written a poem that both addresses what their components are, their personality, and their story. Names are all of African origin and there is a list at the end where he talks about what the words mean and which language and people they are from. 

This book has a lot of directions it could be taken in with provocations. Cam is really interested in using recycled materials to make our own puppets and using the book as a model and inspiration for our project.Puupets 2 There is also the them of ocean pollution (for older children see the Scientists In the Field book Tracking Trash), ocean currents and how they push trash around, and ocean clean-up. The book could also lead to exploration of African folklore, culture, and diversity on the continent. And of course there is the poetry. 

The book is laid out with two page spreads that feature a group portrait of a handful of puppets. These spreads are followed by individual portraits and their corresponding poems. Bryan has intentionally included two or three puppets that do not have names or poems to encourage readers to write their own. Bryan’s poems are simple yet powerful and they give a lot to talk about. Through descriptive, symbolic language he links the pieces that compose the puppets to their personality and invented histories. There is plenty to talk about with the use of language and symbolism in these poems, yet they are simple enough that young readers can connect with and understand them. 

An outstanding book. 

Dreaming UpDreaming Up: A Celebration of Building written & illustrated by Christy Hale

Dreaming Up is another amazing poetry book. This one pairs illustrations of children playing with traditional toys (blocks, stacking rings, sticks, sand) and a picture of a famous building. The pictures are paired with a shape poem about the building the children are doing, meaning each poem is shaped like the building or toy. 

Again you could place this book out with some sort of provocation to play with blocks or toothpicks and gumdrops or even a basket full of sticks. Seeing the interplay between children’s play and adult work, as well as the inspiration they can give each other, is quite powerful. 

Of course the book could, with slightly older children, make a great poetry study. The poems take different forms in regard to rhythm and rhyme, but there is also the physical form of them to pore over. Placing this book out with transparency sheets, pictures or other notable architecture, and pens might invite budding poets to create their own shape poems. 

The end of the book features information about all the buildings seen in the book and about their architects. The list of architects is surprisingly diverse as well with only a few white male architects. These brief biographies may serve as jumping off points for children interested in learning more about the field of architecture. Dreaming Up 2

The children and their quiet play scenes in the illustrations remind me a lot of the scenes in Greda Muller’s seasons books with the exception that these children come in all different colors. 

Another excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.  

Series Reboot in 2015: The Diverse Bookshelf

Once again I’m shaking up my series where I share book titles on the blog. This year I am making a concerted effort to be reading, reviewing, and buying books that feature diversity. There was a big campaign last year called #weneeddiversebooks that really brought a lot of attention to the lack of diversity seen in children’s publishing. If you haven’t heard of this I highly recommend you visit their site and read their mission and about why they got started.

The long and the short of it is that children deserve both windows and mirrors when they read. They deserve to see themselves and see people who are different from them. Sadly this is not happening largely because publishers claim that people won’t buy those books. While the U.S. (and the world) is getting more and more diverse children’s publishing, already low on representation, is staying the same. Here is an infographic put together by the fabulous publisher Lee & Low who does champion diversity that hits home this point:

Childrens Books Infographic 18 24 V3

Now, diversity doesn’t necessarily mean race. It can be gender, sexuality (although this is primarily an issue in literature for older kids), family structure (single parents, two moms, two dads, etc.), disability, and a lot more. It also means showing diversity as incidental. Not all books with African-Americans in them should be about the slave experience. Not all books with Japanese should be about the internment during WWII. Those books are important, and there are a lot of good ones out there, but diversity is all around our kids. Cam is the only fully white kid on our street. There are four other kids who live on our block and they all are all mixed race. Her world doesn’t look like the homogenous world of most children’s books. 

Diversity in publishing also doesn’t have to mean diverse characters. There is a push to publish more diverse authors and to get some diversity into the actual publishing industry. Both of these would make it more likely that diverse characters appear in books without them being flat, stereotypical or tokenistic. 

I really agree with this movement both as an educator and as parent. We are lucky to be white middle class because of the inherent privilege that comes with that and I don’t want Cam to be unaware of that privilege like I was. I want her to see the world as it is instead of defaulting to seeing it as white and I think one way to do that is put books in her hands that reflect the world she lives in and to talk to her about it when they don’t or when the representation is problematic.

I’m making a commitment to be sure that I am supporting diverse books when and where I can and one great place I can do that is here on the blog. I’ll be using this series to review and feature diverse titles that we love (I’ll still share our provocations, but they’ll be in the first week of the month). I’m going to try and have new titles in the column, but I am at the mercy of what is in at the library so I may have to look at some older titles.

I may not buy enough books to make difference and I may not have a loud voice, but I want to use the voice I have to say that #weneeddiversebooks.