Libraries Aren’t Immune to Media Bias Against Teens

Teen slashed opponent with knife during game, police say

I selected this article because I wanted recent news that happened near the East Meadow Public Library where I work. The incident occurred across the street from the library in Eisenhower Park. The article describes how a Uniondale teen slashed another teen in the face with a knife during a basketball game.

The phrase “became irate”, stated by Nassau County Police, is quoted in the article. The article says that the motivation for the stabbing isn’t clear. Based on stereotypes against teens, the article subtly portrays him as possibly emotionally unstable. As Morgan so adequately stated in her post, “silently affecting the situation’s portrayal” is the fact that the teen in my article is a POC. Similar to Morgan’s article, there are other factors in my article that feed into stereotypes. The picture, for example, shows the teen with blood shot eyes and a scowling expression.

It’s easy to view this as an isolated incident. We could say that this story is about one bad seed, and harmless to teens in general. However, the bias against teenagers is very real. Unfortunately, these biases affect how libraries treat teens too. When I studied library spaces to research for a community profile, it was apparent to me how often teen spaces are small and isolated from the rest of the library. At a library I used to frequent, the clerks were harsher toward the teens than other patrons, and the security guard would shout at them for talking too much. The whole library could hear him, and there were multiple scenarios where he threatened to call the police. Library workers need to be extra careful about what news they read, and about their own internal biases when serving teen patrons.

Boyle, M. (2017, August 29). What Can Be Learned From News Stories About Local Teens. Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://morganlefay73.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/what-can-be-learned-from-news-stories-about-local-teens/

Valenti, J. (2017, August 28). Teen slashed with knife during game, cops say. Retrieved August 30, 2017, from http://www.newsday.com/long-island/crime/teen-slashed-opponent-with-knife-during-game-police-say-1.14094506

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Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure

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Spiegelman, N., & Sánchez, S. G. (2015). Lost in NYC: a subway adventure. New York, NY: TOON Books.

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Adventure

Grade Level: Toon Comics recommends this for grades 3 and up.

Summary: New student Pablo and his classmate, Alicia, get on the wrong subway on a field trip to the Empire State Building. Now they must find each other and their class in this NYC adventure story.

Review: What a treat this comic was! You don’t have to be a New Yorker to appreciate Lost in NYC, but it certainly does help. In just over fifty pages, the comic manages to make readers feel so invested in the two main characters. The illustrations were also so impressive! They give the reader the fast paced feeling of racing through the crowded, winding streets of NYC. The comic is supported by a diverse cast. I selected this comic because the sense of adventure and theme of friendship make it both a fun and profound read for young children. The bright and colorful pictures will catch a child’s eye, and there are facts and photos about the Empire State Building and subway system to make this comic educational as well.

Educational Connections: The end of the comic features maps, photos, and facts about NYC, the subway system, and the Empire State Building. There is also a section with tips for parents, teachers, and librarians.

Reviews

Hunter, S. (2015, April 15). Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure. Retrieved May 07, 2017, from https://www.booklistonline.com/Lost-in-NYC-A-Subway-Adventure-Nadja-Spiegelman/pid=7348187

LOST IN NYC by Nadja Spiegelman , Sergio Garca Snchez. (2015, February 3). Retrieved May 07, 2017, from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/nadja-spiegelman/lost-in-nyc/

 

Read Alikes

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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.

The Fantasy and Science Fiction Stigma

 Newbery awards are given to authors based on their “distinguished contribution to American literature for children” . There is a 23 year gap between this year’s fantasy winner “The Girl Who Drank The Moon” (2017) and science fiction winner “The Giver” (1994). Kharissa and I believe it has to do with the stigmas associated with the science fiction and fantasy genres and the ideologies of parents; especially when dealing with young readers. However, fantasy and science fiction has survived the times, and even flourished in the young adult market. With the return of Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast and the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, science fiction and fantasy are as popular as ever. The idea of having superpowers, fighting as a warrior to save Earth or wishing you lived in a world where beasts and creatures walked allows for escapism, but that doesn’t mean readers aren’t learning. Among children, it’s celebrated but Vardell (2014) explains how some adults discourage science fiction and fantasy books because they promote the idea of magic and may distort a reader’s sense of reality (p. 213).

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente, C. M., & Juan, A. (2011). The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making. New York: Feiwel and Friends.


A whimsical story detailing the adventures of a young girl swept away to the magical Fairyland. September, a twelve-year-old girl from Omaha, Nebraska, is visited by a Green Wind one night and invited on an adventure to Fairyland. All too eager to leave her mundane life behind, September hops onto the back of a flying leopard, and is taken to Fairyland. There  she’s sent on a request to retrieve a magical object and save Fairyland. September is a delightful main character, with admirable problem solving skills. While the fantasy world is clearly well developed, the book is initially off putting with the excessive jargon used in the dialogue. However, once September’s journey begins, readers will be thrown into a world of witches, a flying leopard, and a wyvern (the creature on the cover who looks like a dragon) sidekick. VERDICT: Great for fantasy lovers and readers who don’t mind dense, wordy books.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a Hans Christian Andersen tale. In the original story, two weavers tell the emperor that they can weave beautiful clothing that can only be seen by clever people. The emperor gives the weavers money and expensive cloth. The weavers are, of course, tricking him. The emperor sends his men to check on the clothing. None of them are brave enough to admit that they can’t see the clothes, and so the emperor himself also doesn’t. The emperor parades through his kingdom naked, and only when a small child can acknowledges the truth does the crowd and the emperor suspect they’ve been fooled. The emperor simply continues to proudly march on.

Biro, V. (2017). The Emperor’s New Clothes. New York, NY: Windmill Books.

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Since I personally didn’t find the illustrations appealing, this version was my least favorite of the three. The emperor wears a sash around him to soften this story enough for children. The ending concludes that it is the emperor’s vanity that proves him foolish.

Sedgwick, M. (Adapter), & Jay, A. (2004). The emperor’s new clothes. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

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This picture book adapts the story using animals. The emperor is a selfish, overweight lion and the weavers are, fittingly, weasels. The story is also told in rhyme. A small frog points out that the lion is naked. Unlike the original tale, the emperor does not proudly march on but is instead ashamed. The fact that the book uses animals tones down the saucy ending.

D. (Adapter) (2000). The emperor’s new clothes: a tale set in China. New York: McElderry Books.

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Set in China, this is the only version I read where one of the weavers is a woman. As the author states in her notes at the end, the Chinese symbols in the illustrations represent purity and wisdom. The emperor, surrounded by these symbols, still plays the role of the fool. In this version, the emperor isn’t naked, but parades in his underwear.

In a public library setting, it’s difficult to determine what age group this tale would be popular for. Despite the illustrations softening the content, I would feel uncomfortable reading this to children in a library. Every parent is different, and I would worry that a parent would be angry to hear that I’d read his/her child a story that ends with a man publicly naked and ashamed. Less mature kids might find this hilarious and repeat it to their friends and family. For that reason, if I did read this book to children it would be the one set in China, because the emperor is in his underwear still. Underwear is amusing still, but more kid friendly while still retaining the theme of the story. I would read this book to children ages seven and up, as there a considerable amount of text in this.