Jan 25, 2014

Multicultural Children's Book Day: January 27

Here's a heads up on another one of those special days (weeks, months) that focus on a particular theme or topic of value. It's the kind of frustratingly time-specific, fleeting event that drives me up a wall, in case you haven't read any of my prior rants.  The painful reality is that these are topics, theme, and issues that deserve our attention 24/7/365. 

But I'll take what I can get.

The good news is that the minimal representation of cultural diversity in all children's literature, picture books included, has been on ongoing topic of discussion this past year among social media literati.

Read more about MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN'S BOOK DAY here. With the annual Black History Month just around the corner, classrooms and social media will be overflowing with suggested readings on African American history, largely centered on the periods of the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. While there are significant numbers of picture books on these topics, they are too often relegated to back shelves or boxes when the month ends. Please, resist the urge and keep those books prominent, circulating, and under discussion.
Ezra Jack Keats was way ahead of the curve in creating timeless books with universal appeal using images not often seen at the time. Maurice Sendak shook things up even earlier in his collaborations with Ruth Krauss. His were some of the first picture book illustrations to portray diverse, middle-European children instead of the typical blond, blue-eyed stereotypes.
"Sendak's dark, moody illustrations were a shocking contrast to the usually light and happy fare found in a typical children's book of the time. The main character Max, like many of Sendak's protagonists, acted like a real child, not some idealized version of youth." 

Titles featuring characters with ethnic or cultural heritage beyond the mainstream as anything other than sidekicks or background images are few and far between. The ever-helpful KIDS READ blog shares this single link to prior posts with some suggested titles.  By the way, can we all agree that "mainstream" should be seen as a massively broad flow, one large enough to include all humans?
As for me, I refuse to wait for designated months or days to celebrate great resources for kids. Here's  a link to my resource pages for BLACK HISTORY TITLES and APPRECIATING DIFFERENCES.

I hope you'll suggest some titles with similar diversity and share them with kids.
Throughout the year, throughout their lives.

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Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.