Multicultural Children’s Book Day is just around the corner on January 31st. It’s a great time to reflect on whether your book collection is encompassing all perspectives.
One of our authors, Lisa Travis, had a unique experience as a panelist for this topic at the last American Association of School Librarians conference. We thought we would do a quick synopsis of the author panelists’ books and the perspectives they represented.
The first panelist was Rafael Lopez, the illustrator for Sonia Sotomayor’s book, Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. This children’s picture book does an amazing job of answering children’s curiosity about others’ differences. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. Rafael talked about his gratitude to have the opportunity to positively bring awareness to our unique abilities in this world. We also discussed the power of engaging in conversation. Hopefully, this book helps children feel confident to “just ask” and not make assumptions. What books do you have on your bookshelf that speak to the perspective of differences, whether they be physical or mental?
The second panelist was Geoff Rodkey, author of We’re Not From Here. This sci-fi middle-grade novel proves that friendship and laughter can transcend even a galaxy of differences. If you want to go multicultural, why not go to Mars or Planet Choom? Readers of this book will get introduced to immigration through the perspective of space refugees. Boys and girls will love the main character. Is it boy? Or a girl? According to Geoff, “I gave the readers a bit more space to imagine whatever version of Lan works best for them.” During the panel, Rodkey discussed his approach to creating a gender-neutral character and the misadventures he has had since with those who have assumed one way or the other. In this book, Geoff gave us many perspectives that will expand our thinking. If you’ve got middle-grade readers, add this one to your bookshelf.
The third panelist, Greg Howard, author of Middle School’s a Drag brought yet another perspective for middle grader readers, encouraging us to see the world through a middle school entrepreneur who is discovering how to be open about his identity. He starts his own junior talent agency and signs a thirteen-year-old aspiring drag queen as his first client. Greg shared with us his own perspectives on LGBTQ issues and how they informed his characters and why it was important to have these perspectives on our bookshelves to build a more inclusive world.
Last, our Pack-n- Go Girls Adventures brought yet another perspective. Lisa Travis, the author of our latest Pack-n-Go Girls Adventure, Mystery of the Naga at Night, discussed the importance of multicultural literature in our globally connected world.
Our mission has always been to make a difference by nurturing an adventurous spirit that inspires kids to go out and explore the world, infusing kids with curiosity and an insatiable thirst to learn, and coaching kids to notice what unites us and appreciate the value of our differences. This is what multicultural and diverse literature brings to the table. If we teach our children to move into the world from a place of openness, wonder, and curiosity, rather than fear, judgment, and separation, we set them up to live profoundly more nourishing, connected lives. Reading multicultural books is an easy first step in this direction.
Ultimately, the more we read, the more we learn. The more perspectives we learn about, the more we build empathy and acceptance. Consider this: How much does it mean for children to read a book that has a girl or boy “just like me” in it? The loss isn’t just for children who don’t see themselves on the pages, but the loss is also for the children who only see themselves on the pages. How do they learn to appreciate and understand different perspectives?
So, as we get ready to celebrate multicultural books, take a look at your bookshelf. Does it encompass the perspectives that you want your children or students to explore? Stay tuned for the great 2020 linky with a myriad of book reviews of multicultural books to discover hot new titles that will encompass all perspectives.
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