Diverse Collections Matter

While not limited to this list, diverse books are books that are about people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and people who are part of the LGBTQA community. “…Although 37% of the population of the United States are people of color, only 10% of children’s books published contained multicultural content” (“We Need Diverse Books FAQ”). While that statistic is startling enough, it’s also true that the majority of books that are banned and challenged are diverse books. Today we live in a very tense political climate. Often these conversations can turn into shouting matches. People will dismiss someone on the grounds of his or her political alliance as opposed to actually listening to what the other side has to say. A book can present ideas in a way that having a conversation with someone cannot. If the reader enjoys a story, he or she will engage with its ideas. Children from all groups need to be reading about children who are unlike them. With this exposure, children can understand that not everyone experiences life in the same way, and this creates empathy toward others.

As Naidoo states in “The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children”, “When children never see their culture represented in a library storytime or in materials on the library shelves, they receive a resounding message that the librarian does not think their culture is important enough to feature in the library” (Naidoo, 2014, p. 3). If a collection is missing materials on a certain culture or community, then the result is twofold. One, young patrons of that community may feel excluded from the collection, and two, young patrons outside of that community may believe the excluded community is not worthy of representation. The quality of materials is important as well. Even if a collection does contain diverse materials, if these materials contain stereotypes or misinformation then they will do more harm than good.

The beauty of a properly diverse collection is that it helps young patrons develop an understanding and appreciation for communities they may or may not be a part of, “By including diversity in its programs and collections, the library has the potential for helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop the skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society” (Naidoo, 2014, p. 5). As communication technology continues to improve, young patrons will increasingly find themselves exposed to new cultures and communities. A diverse collection will help to prepare them for that future.

References

Naidoo, J. C. (2014). The importance of diversity in library programs and material collections for children. Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association. Available at http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/f iles/content/ALSCwhitepaper_importance%2 0of%20diversity_with%20graphics_FINAL.pdf
We Need Diverse Books FAQ. (2016, January 31). Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://weneeddiversebooks.org/faq/

 

Read Aloud Reflection

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I’m grateful for the comments I received for my read aloud of Book! Book! Book! Between my time spent as a theatre major and competing on a speech and debate team in college, I’m comfortable in front of audiences. This is great, because it means I can get past the “If you just weren’t nervous it would’ve been better” and into more in depth criticisms.

The main positive comments I received were:

  • Good introduction
  • Clear voice
  • Enthusiasm
  • Good job with the animal sounds
  • Good pacing

As for criticism, the main point I received was that I should’ve made more animal noises in the beginning of the book, so that the audience can follow my lead and better interact with the book. I definitely agree with this point. It’s not as easy, because the real interaction doesn’t take place until the second half of the story. However, it’s important to establish that connection with the audience early on, especially with children! I also received one comment each on these points:

  • Hold the book up so that everyone can see the illustrations
  • Use more variation in your reading voice
  • Speak louder
  • Slow down (which is interesting, considering I received two notes that my pacing was good!)

I’d say that from these notes, I’d really like to work on my voice variation. When I’m reading a picture book to prep for a read aloud, I will often use different voices in my head, but I get shy about doing them once I’m in front of my audience!

Overall, this  was definitely a positive experience. Book! Book! Book! makes for a great read aloud, and I’m glad my classmates seemed to enjoy the book as much as I do.

 

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

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A simply told story about a complicated topic, Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan tells the tragic story of a young girl living during the Taliban’s reign. After both her parents go missing, Nasreen no longer speaks. It isn’t until her grandmother takes her a secret school, where girls are risking their lives in order to receive an education, that she finds her voice again. The story, narrated by Nasreen’s grandmother, is succinctly told, and many readers may find themselves wanting to know more about this incredible family. Still, the story we do see is a very special one.

According to the American Library Association, Nasreen’s Secret School was one of the top ten most challenged books in 2015.  The book has been challenged in Florida, New York, and Wisconsin.  It has been challenged due to its religious viewpoint, violent content, and “references to Islam”. These reasons are confusing. While the book talks about terrorists, there is hardly any depictions of violence, and the religious viewpoint isn’t the main focus of the story. Neither Nasreen nor her grandmother condone anything the Taliban does. Quite the opposite, they defy them, and this defiance is arguably the most important aspect of this book. The author’s note in the beginning of the book shows the difference in women’s status in Afghanistan before and after the Taliban. According to the book, 70% of teachers, 40% of doctors, and half of Kabul University’s students were women. Once the Taliban seized power, women’s rights were stripped. They could not go to school, leave the home without a male escort, and were forced to cover their head and body at all times. This change in status is upsetting, but also important for readers, especially young ones, to understand.

Society tends to stereotype Muslim women as repressed and submissive. We seldom speak of the Muslim women doctors, teachers, and university students there once were in Afghanistan. We don’t talk about the amazing young women who bravely attend secret schools. Malala Yousafzai is not the only woman who has stood up to the Taliban. These other women like Nasreen and her grandmother deserve to have their story told. If people continue to challenge books such as these, they assist the Taliban in their cause of silencing and repressing Muslim women. This book must not only be made available in school and public libraries, but librarians should encourage children to read it, and to learn about girls like Nasreen.

The Sibert and NCSS Awards

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The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is an annual word for authors and illustrators of informational books. In 2000 the book Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America by Jim Murphy was a Sibert Honor recipient. The National Council for the Social Studies, grants the Carter G. Woodson book awards. This award recognizes outstanding social sciences books that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and relations sensitively and accurately. Both awards recognize the importance of education; the Sibert award valuing learning from informational books, and the Carter G. Woodson award highlighting voices that have often been silenced. Both these awards are for books that can teach us about cultures around the world and how they interact with each other.

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The Carter G. Woodson award is for a much more specific type of book. For example, Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, details a young American girl of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent fighting along with her parents after she’s denied access to a “whites only” school. The author is known for his very specific style of art, and combined with a very important topic in history, one can see why he was granted this award. As for Sibert award winners, such informational books like Blizzard! The Storm That Changed Everything, the focus could be on any point in history and doesn’t necessarily have to contain diverse experiences. Blizzard! The Storm That Changed Everything is a bit denser than Separate is Never Equal, and, although there are illustrations, they’re much less vibrant and eye catching than Tonatiuh’s are. Both awards are important in recognizing the importance in learning from history.