#DearScholastic

Childrens Books Infographic 2015

It’s Real World Wednesday and this week we are absolutely overjoyed to feature the 3rd graders in class 301 at the Hamilton Heights School in New York City!

In the fall these students learned about the diversity gap in children’s literature. So, when the December Scholastic Book Club catalog arrived, they decided to count the number of books featuring characters of color. Out of more than 100 books, they counted about 7 that had people of color.

12321232_1673602469596147_1558964926701491010_nThey decided to write letters to Scholastic to tell them how they felt about this, which can be found in the comments below and also on their classroom Blog: http://www.wereaddiversebooks.com/

You can support them by reading, commenting on, and sharing their letters using social media with the hashtag ‪#‎DearScholastic‬

 

Here are a few of their powerful letters:

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that it is terrible that there is fewer than ten books with people of color. My opinion is correct because how come there are more books about white people and less books about people of color? For example, like what is a person of color wants to read a book that is a mirror book but there is no book about them?

Another reason I feel my opinion is correct is because what if a white person wants to read a diverse book and there is not even a single diverse book. For example like you can’t just read about white people. Also that diverse books can become a mirror book and a window book.

Now I am restating my opinion with enthusiasm! As a mixed kid I would like to read more Asian story books and people of color and white people. And I am saying in my words that pretty pretty please make more books about people of color.

Sincerely,
Maguette

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My name is Julian. I think that the low people of color books are a problem with your company. By what I mean by that is your company may not like people of color books or something. But I was quite shocked because when I looked in the catalog for a book fair there were less than ten people of color books.

Here is one reason dedicated to people of color books. What if I am in a library only with your books and I want to read a book with Dominican characters but you made NONE. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! Because white people including me read people of color books to learn about people of color and so on and so forth. But please make diverse books with color.

Sincerely,
Julian

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that DIVERSE books are important . I feel that my opinion is correct because DIVERSE books are awesome. If we have DIVERSE books we can learn different things. I feel that my opinion is correct because its good to read DIVERSE books. Its good to read DIVERSE books because they have different adventures.

Diverse books are important to me, because one book that I read that really has significance to me is Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Springs into Action. Freddie Ramos Springs into Action is important to me because Freddie Ramos teaches me to be good and it also teaches me to help my mom and help anyone in need. Freddie Ramos is a Latino character and that matters to me because I’m Latino too! And there’s not really a lot of Latino catalog books which makes me a little bit sad.

Every time I go to the library, in my mind I’m like “Is there going to be some new Latino books?” But I don’t see any. So I just buy Star Wars books. And there’s one Latino book about Lego Star Wars. And I want to learn more about my country than Star Wars. As you can see DIVERSE books are important.

Sincerely yours,

Kelvin

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

We need diverse books because if we don’t other people won’t be featured. We need diverse books because people would feel bad. People want to buy books with people of color. I want more diverse books because I feel bad for the people and that is why we want more diverse books.

Sincerely,
Jeremy

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I think that we should have more diverse character books! When I looked at the Scholastic Book Fair catalog I only saw about 7 books with diverse characters, and that is a problem we have to fix! One reason why I want more diverse character books is because I am a very caring person and I don’t want the black people to be sad and disrespected! One way we can fix it is to ask Lee and Low books to write and publish more diverse character books, and this is for a good cause!

One reason is that let’s say you are black you would want a mirror book like when you are reading a book and someone has almost the same life as you! Another reason is because you can make people feel like their life matters in this world. It can also be a good thing and it can be a very good solution because kids and adults too want to feel like they are appreciated! And that’s why you need to step up and be a change maker and give us more diverse books!!!

Sincerely,
Jada

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

In my opinion I believe that we need to change the problem and the problem is that there is more books about white people than diverse characters and it is so not good. We can fix it by stop making books about white people and make more books about different color people and we will catch up so it will be fair for other.

Diverse characters matter because if you were black and you just saw books with white people it is going to be boring! You will want mirror books and also window books at the same time. Mirror books are the same and window books are not the same.

Look there are more than 100 books in your catalog and there is only 10% of the books that have diverse characters. Do you think this is fair? Well for me it’s not fair because there are many kinds of people who are diverse and there is not so many people who are diverse in the books. As you can see I think diverse characters matter!

Sincerely,
Heidi

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

Diverse books are important because people are from different cultures and they want to read of diverse people. It does not matter if they are from diverse cultures, because diverse books matter. What about if people like diverse books just like I do? I like diverse books because they are fun and funny and because I get to know more of diverse books.

Sincerely,
Franchesca

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

We want to have more diverse books because I read Allie’s Basketball Dream and Allie is a Black person and I am a different color. Also we need more diverse books because there is only a lot of [books for] white people and not that many [books for] Black people and we want a lot of [books for] Black people like the white people. That’s why we want to have more diverse books.

Sincerely,
Erik

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that we need more than 10 books about people of color. Diverse books matter to me because they’re special to me and it’s like a gift to the people. They are a gift because you learn about diverse characters. For example, I read a book that has diverse people. The book is called Big Bushy Mustache. For example, this kid likes mustaches because he wants to look like his dad. The kid looks brown. I felt happy when I read a book about somebody that had brown skin. Another thing that I like about Big Bushy Mustache is it has the same culture as mine, because the characters speak Spanish like my parents and me.  My opinion is that we want more diverse books, so please bring more diverse  books.

Sincerely,

Edwin

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I personally think that you should make more people people of color books. You should put more people of color like me. I’m Latino and I do see like less than 10 books of people of color and for me that’s not fair because you’re showing that you only support white people and Black people and Asians, Latino people need attention. For example, if there’s any Black, Asian, Latino people in your workplace I bet they’re waiting for that moment to make a book with their nationality character book so please make that change NOW! please.

Sincerely,
Antonys

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I think that in Scholastic Books there are only a little bit of diverse books. This is a problem because black people want to see mirror books and mirror books are like if your life is like the book. So please fix this.

Sincerely,
Amethyst

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that diverse books matter. I feel that my opinion is correct because in some countries people want to read diverse books but the countries don’t have diverse books. For example some people of color want to read a mirror book. I feel my opinion is correct because if me as a Black person wants to read a diverse book and they don’t have diverse books I’ll feel bad. At first I didn’t think diverse books were important, but now I think diverse books are important. I think characters of color matter!

Sincerely,
Amber

If you’ve been inspired by this week’s Real World Wednesday to become a change maker around diversity in children’s literature yourself, here are some tips from Wade Hudson.

 


 

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Welcoming gender non-conforming children

Happy Real World Wednesday! This week we get to hear from Sarah Meytin!!!Slide1

Sarah is an ordained rabbi with an MSW. She has been in early childhood education since 2009, currently serving as assistant director of a Jewish preschool in Washington, DC. In 2013 she earned a National Director’s Credential from the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership. She has also completed the Jewish Early Childhood Leadership Institute (JECELI) In 2010, Sarah founded Rockville Open House, a safe space for LGBTQ Jewish teens and their friends/allies, which meets monthly at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.

We asked her: What can early educators to do make preschools welcoming for gender non-conforming children?

Here’s her insightful response:

A person’s gender or gender identity is their understanding that they are a boy, girl, man, woman, etc.. One’s gender identity is something known instinctively and may or may not “match” a person’s external genitalia, chromosomes, or what the doctor wrote down on their birth certificate. Children as young as 18months know their gender identity, and may understand their identity to be different from the gender they were assigned at birth. Gender expression is what we call the outward manifestation of gender, and is culturally determined. Gender expression includes the clothing, hair styles, personal preferences, and other “stereotypes” we associate with a particular gender identity.

The terms gender non-conformity or gender variance indicate that one’s gender expression does not match exactly, or at all, with the expected, or stereotypical, expression expected for one’s gender. In young children, this may include young girls who refuse to wear dresses or cut their hair very short, or boys who dislike sports and are more inclined to draw butterflies and rainbows than dinosaurs and trucks.

Creating Safe Spaces

To get you started creating safer and more welcoming early childhood programs for gender non-conforming young children, here are some tips:

  • Educate yourself about gender identity, gender development, and sexuality.
  • Allow each child to self-identify, including using their preferred pronouns, gender identification, and name preference
  • Help parents to understand that most gender variant young children will outgrow this identity by the time they reach puberty, but some won’t.
  • Expand assumptions of the gender-variant child and others: Remind them that they are “a different kind of boy (or girl)” and that there are “different ways to be a girl (or boy).” Be sure to educate other children, staff, and the parent community as well.
  • Provide social support, including with other staff, parents, and other kids in the class
  • Do this by emphasizing diversity and inclusiveness of all kinds, and with everyone in the community.
  • Have gender neutral bathrooms/changing rooms.
  • Avoid dividing children by gender – instead use birthday month, clothing color, letters of first/last name, etc.
  • Provide resources, including books, that show diversity of families as well as gender expressions

To learn more, we recommending checking out the resources below and consider attending Sarah’s session, You Belong Here: Welcoming gender non-conforming children, at this year’s NAEYC Annual Conference.

Important Reads

Resources for Classrooms

Same-sex parents

  • King & King by Linda de Haan
  • Two Dads: A book about adoption by Carolyn Robertson
  • Daddy, Papa and Me by Lesléa Newman
  • Mommy, Momma, and Me by Lesléa Newman
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
  • The Family Book by Todd Parr

Gender Variance

  • My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
  • The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan
  • Jacobs New Dress by Sarah Hoffman
  • It’s OK to be Different by Todd Parr
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
  • Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr (for elementary school children)

Wow!  This is fantastic!  Thank you Sarah!

So I’ve got all these diverse children’s books, now what?

Improving the diversity in children’s literature has been getting a lot of attention over the course of the last few years–and for good reason!  We’ve got a long way to go.  Big shout out to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and everyone else who’s doing this important work!

diversity_tinakugler

At the same time, there’s a lot more to the conversation about diversity & equity in children’s literature than simply making bookshelves more diverse.  As exemplified by the recent release and then swift recall of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, just because a book features a non-white character doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an anti-bias book.  On this topic, Louise Derman-Sparks has done some fantastic work putting together An Updated Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books, which we’ve turned into the handy tip-sheet below:

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This webinar, Using an Anti-Bias Lens to Examine Early Childhood Childrens Books in Your Program, hosted by Linda Santora and Cheryl Kilodavis is also a great resource.  And so is this post by Dr. Cathy Gutierrez-Gomez on Tips for Choosing Culturally Appropriate Books & Resources About Native Americans.

2013-11-06 14.00 Using an Anti-Bias Lens to Examine Early Childhood Childrens Books in Your Program by Linda Santora and Cheryl from Engagement Strategies, LLC on Vimeo.

And secondly, we’ve gotta think carefully and critically about what happens when we take our high-quality, diverse, anti-bias children’s literature off the shelf and actually use them in our homes and classrooms.  How do we use these books to create meaningful experiences for young children that open up and support ongoing conversations about diversity and equity?  At the end of the day, we have to remember that while books are amazing resources (we LOVE books!), they do not do the work of anti-bias education for us.  That’s still up to us.  We’ve put together some Dos and Dont’s below.  What would you add to the list?

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The blog Raising Race Conscious Children also has some great tips and strategies.

And finally, while you might have created your own personal library full of diverse, anti-bias children’s literature, there is still a larger systemic problem that you can (and should!) play a role in addressing.  Check out this fantastic post: Ten Steps to Promote Diversity in Children‘s Literature by Wade Hudson.

Children’s Book Resources from Embrace Race

Hi all,

If you haven’t checked out Embrace Race yet, do!  They’ve got all kinds of resources and support for folks grappling with how to raise kids within the context of structural racism.  This week on their Facebook page, they shared some fantastic book lists.  Check them out:

Thanks, Embrace Race, for providing us with these great resources!

Building a Diverse, Anti-Bias Library for Young Children

Let’s start with some tips for being intentional as you assess your existing collection and build your library.  Check out:

Next, there are lots of online libraries and booklists to help you find the diverse, anti-bias children’s books you need:

It’s also important to note that despite the existence of all these fantastic resources, there is still a lot of work to be done.  For example:

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The We Need Diverse Books campaign is actively working to improve the diversity in children’s literature (while simultaneously highlighting existing literature on their webpage and on social media).  And there are lots of ways for you to get involved!  Here are three ideas:

  1. Write your own story!
  2. Hop on social media using #weneeddiversebooks
  3. Sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/book-publishers-and-review-journals-help-increase-diversity-in-books-by-asking-publishers-to-be-transparent-about-staff-diversity

Lastly–but certainly not least–it’s super important to remember that while ensuring that you’ve got a library full of diverse, anti-bias children’s literature is necessary, it is certainly not sufficient.  The really critical piece is what you do with these books.  Research has shown that simply increasing the diversity of books and other media that young children are exposed to is ineffective in reducing bias (Aboud & Levy, 2000).  Rather, parents and teachers must select and use these materials wisely and thoughtfully.  In short, the books don’t do the work for you; they simply provide opportunities to have the conversations you need to have, to model the kinds of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors you want your little ones to learn.


This piece was originally posted by Megan Madison on her personal blog.

Celebrating LGBT Pride Month in the Classroom

On June 17th, Ruben Brosbe–a third grade teacher in New York City–shared with us his reflections on celebrating LGBT Pride Month in the classroom.  You can check out the piece he wrote for the Educators’ Room here!

In addition, he added,

“I think one major challenge is the assumption that parents won’t support this kind of teaching. I teach in a community that is predominantly Black and Latino and it is important to challenge misconceptions that these families are more homophobic or transphobic than White, middle-class families. I also think that taking the time to find resources and then vet them for quality is another challenge, although one that is rewarding in the end.”

We asked him to share with us some tips on vetting resources for quality and he replied,

One way to start “vetting” is by picking books that already come recommended. There’s a few book lists included in my blog post. After that I make sure to read any book ahead of time and make sure I feel comfortable with the messages – explicit and implicit – that it sends. For example I found two books about kids with two dads and two moms written in the form of question and answer. Although I thought the stories were cute, I felt uncomfortable with the idea that kids might feel like they have to answer every question they get about their families. That said, these books could also be read aloud and discussed critically. You don’t have to throw out books, even if they’re problematic, as long as you think about how to address those problems.

NAEYC has also provided some additional suggestions for children’s books that include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families which can be found here.