Reblog: R.J. Palacio and Meg Medina Talk Diversity and Children’s Books

Did you know that authors R.J. Palacio and Meg Medina both grew up in Spanish-speaking, lived in Flushing, Queens, attended the same elementary-school – and were best friends?

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, renowned authors R.J. Palacios (author of Wonder) and Meg Medina (author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) discuss their divergent, but parallel paths to becoming children’s authors. Alin mentioned this post in her recent Week in Review Post, but I wanted to take the time to share a couple of my favorite excerpts from Medina. I highly encourage you to read the interview in its entirety. It’s definitely worth the read!

“People are asking harder questions about the books that are coming through. I think that’s exciting. People are asking: Is it written authentically? Are there mistakes? Are there representations that could be offensive? It’s not about having that intention — no one is setting out to write a book saying: I want to hurt children! I’d like to insult an entire group of people! Who says that? Nobody. But there can be a tone-deafness, because we haven’t been used to holding ourselves accountable for the more sensitive things. And now there’s a critical mass of people saying, Hold on there, I’ve had enough. There are so many stereotypes about Latina women. The fact is that I’m a Cuban woman, Raquel is a Colombian woman — whatever her experience was, that is the Latina experience for her. My Latina experience was different but just as valuable. We need more stories that expose all the experiences. The thing that holds them together is: Is it true about growing up? Does it shine some sort of light on what it is to be a human being who’s young, who’s trying to make sense of the world? So I find the conversation around diversity both exciting and painful, because good, kind people get hurt, and good, kind people hurt others without meaning to. It’s exhausting to be on the receiving end of criticism, and it’s exhausting to be the person who has to say, Hey, no fair. I can’t tell you how many panels I’m invited to speak on to represent Latino literature, and I find it daunting.”

“There’s not one of us who can speak for the entire group, and I accept that. If you want Latino literature, you have to understand it’s this collection of 20 countries. And yet for the kids who were born in the U.S. to foreign-born parents, that umbrella does have some meaning. The way I see it is this; I’m telling the story through this lens: What it is to grow up in the U.S. with parents who don’t speak English. I tell the story as truly as I can. But then what kicks in afterward is almost this idea of being a literary citizen. I’m in schools, I’m in libraries, not necessarily New York or L.A. — I’m in Arkansas, Oklahoma, where kids are feeling “othered,” struggling to learn English themselves, or they’re sitting in rooms where the TV is playing and someone is saying they’re rapists. So I think what is important for me to do is to advocate the humanity of everyone, their value, their story; that the language of their mothers and fathers is a beautiful one, that the stories of growing up how they did are significant. I have a feeling of being an ambassador to people who don’t have a relationship to people from other places, but mostly I want to help kids feel proud of where they come from. To know that they are enough.”

Educating Children and Young People for Joy and Justice: A Guest Post by Author and Teacher Ann Berlak

To prepare children and young people to participate in the construction of a more just and joyful future, we must tell them stories that make the invisible visible and unsettle what is taken for granted.”

I love everything about this article! In case you missed it, I wanted to share it on Vamos a Leer. It’s so relevant to many of the conversations we’ve been having here on the blog and with our local NM teachers.  I hope you’ll read the whole thing on the Latinxs in Kid Lit website!

By Ann Berlak

To prepare children and young people to participate in the construction of a more just and joyful future, we must tell them stories that make the invisible visible and unsettle what i…

Source: Educating Children and Young People for Joy and Justice: A Guest Post by Author and Teacher Ann Berlak

Lee & Low Books on “The Opposite of Colorblind: Why it’s essential to talk to children about race”

Lee & Low Books published a great article on their blog this morning.  In the article Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman discusses why avoiding discussions of race with young people can do more harm than good.  We couldn’t agree more.  If you find yourself in conversations where others still believe the colorblind approach is the best way to go, Whitman offers some great research and resources to explain why this is not be the case.  I’ve included an excerpt below, but I hope you’ll check out the article in its entirety here.

Lee and Low Books | The Opposite of Colorblind: Why it’s essential to talk to children about raceResearch has shown that the “colorblind” approach—teaching children that it is racist to acknowledge racial and ethnic differences—is doing no one any favors, and in fact can reinforce racist attitudes and assumptions, and especially reify systemic racism. “Black children know irrefutably that they’re black by the time they’re about 6 years old and probably earlier,” one article noted in our research. Do white children know they’re white? If not, how do they think of themselves?

At Lee & Low, we’ve always believed that even the youngest readers have the capacity to understand and appreciate difference—that’s why many of our children’s books address issues like racism and discrimination. But you don’t have to take our word for it: many experts, educators, and academics have done work on this topic as well and their recommendations can help point parents and teachers in the right direction.

–Katrina

6 Back-to-School Tips and Gifts for Social Justice Educators

Just in case you haven’t read this yet, I wanted to share on the blog today. There are some great tips and ideas here. “Where I’m From” poetry is one of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the year. If you’re working with any first year teachers “12 Tips for New Teachers” is the perfect thing to share with them.

Rethinking Schools

1.

Start your school year off by inviting students’ lives into the classroom through poetry. Download this free lesson from our newest book, Rhythm and Resistance.

Where I'm From Lesson

2.

Get inspired to incorporate environmental justice lessons into your curriculum regardless of your subject area! Here is the “The Mystery of the Three Scary Numbers” lesson (with handouts) from A People’s Curriculum for the Earth.  

3.

Order your Planning To Change the World plan book*!

Planning to Change the World

*Only one coupon code can be used at a time. The “30% Off” and the code for $15 price can not be used at the same time.

4.

Download and print Larry Miller’s “12 Tips for New Teachers.” From our New Teacher Book, use reminders for yourself and to give to new teachers in your building.

12 Tips for New Teachers

5.

Sign up on the Zinn Education Project website to get free “people’s history” lesson plans to teach outside of…

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Teaching is an art.

Teaching is an art, despite what main stream media may say.  As we go back to our classrooms, I think it’s important that we hold on tightly to this truth.  So much of what Christensen says here really resonates with me.  In the hopes that it will speak to you as well, I thought I’d share her post.

Rethinking Schools

by Linda Christensen

Linda Christensen

I love the first days of school.

I love putting the books back on the shelves, polishing the tables, stacking my bins of colored highlighters, sticky notes, and blue tape in the cupboard.

I love arranging and rearranging my tables, chairs, and file cabinets until the room feels right — ready for work.

I love the chalkboards—green and smooth, ready for the first scratch of chalk. Yes, I’m old school: I still have chalkboards.

I love putting up photographs and poems, quotes from scholars and former students.

I love planning: drawing out the four quarters of the year, marking up the board with sticky notes about the units I will teach, noting the writing assignments and extra readings I will use with each unit.

I love to pause and look out at Mt. St. Helens on a clear day, as I listen to the football players on…

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Native American Heritage Month: 10 Children’s Books By Native Writers

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I wanted to share the open book’s post from yesterday. It has great suggestions for literature written by Native writers that you could use in the classroom. We hope you’ll check it out!

the open book

November is Native American Heritage Month! Native American Heritage Month evolved from the efforts of various individuals at the turn of the 20th century who tried to get a day of recognition for Native Americans. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a resolution that appointed November as Native American Heritage Month. You can learn more about Native American Heritage Month here.

For many years, Native people were silenced and their stories were set aside, hidden, or drowned out. That’s why it’s especially important to read stories about Native characters, told in Native voices. Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with these great books by Native writers:

Biographies

Quiet Hero by S.D. Nelson – Ira Hayes grew up on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. When he was in his late teens, World War II raged, and Ira Hayes joined the Marine corps. Eventually they were sent to the tiny Japanese…

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Thoughts on Ferguson and Recommended Resources

Lee & Low shared this post today with thoughts on what’s going on in Ferguson and how we can teach about it in our classroom, and I wanted to share it with our Vamos a Leer readers. I especially appreciated the following quote from publisher Jason Low: “From a distance, it can seem like our book-filled corner of the world doesn’t have much to do with Michael Brown’s death, but we know better. The need for more diverse books and better representation is urgent. Poor representation doesn’t just damage self-esteem and confidence of children of color, it also perpetuates a skewed version of society as a whole. How can true equality ever exist if we are literally not even on the same page? Promoting diverse books is about creating a safer space for all children.”

I hope you’ll read the entire post and check out the resources for teaching about such a difficult subject.

the open book

The following is a note from our Publisher, Jason Low, published in this month’s e-newsletter:

image from BirdIt’s been a hard few weeks for those of us following the news out of Ferguson, Missouri. While the exact details of Michael Brown’s death remain unknown, we can already see how this latest incident fits into a larger narrative in this country in which people of color are routinely discriminated against and subject to violence based on the color of their skin. Healing and change cannot begin until we as a country acknowledge the role racism plays not just in events like Michael Brown’s death, but in the everyday lived experiences of the 37% of America that is not white.

From a distance, it can seem like our book-filled corner of the world doesn’t have much to do with Michael Brown’s death, but we know better. The need for more diverse books…

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