Wednesday, May 20, 2009

C.O.R.A Diversity Roll Call

Ali's hosting week #7. And this week assignment is about children's books. She writes: Choose one or more kids' books or stories. Could be an old favorite you remember from your childhood, or a new one that just came out. Could be a comic book (missed you last week, Rich!) or fairy tale or a ghost story. Whatever strikes you.

Did/does the world of the story match with your world? How do you think it contributes to a child's world view? (For example, I grew up in a very white, middle class American neighborhood--books could either broaden my view of the world or give me an illusion of sameness in the world). Do the characters' looks, values, social status, reflect the diversity of our world? Would it change the meaning of the story if the characters were different?

Children's literature is not a strong genre for me. We read as children but there were no bedtime stories or family trips to the library. My parents stressed getting an education which meant we were expected to read but there was no emphasis on reading for fun. We were always given money for Scholastic book days and if we wanted a book our parents would buy it. And I'll confess that as a parent I, too, failed to put enough emphasis on reading. When my girls were little, I bought and continue to buy books but we had no schedule nighttime reading either. We have a house full of books but the reading campaign really didn't begin until my girls were starting school. I'm embarrassed to say it but like many other parents, I didn't make reading to them a priority. I've been playing catch up but unlike my own upbringing, my girls have a parent who reads and is always at the library or the bookstore. Will I have a chance at this again with grandchildren? Enough already with the confession. I think my guilt is what kept me from posting my response till now.

As I said we had access to books, and for me the books I remember most are Ezra Jack Keats'. I grew up in the 70s and in that brief, golden period of Black is beautiful. For me, Peter was in terms of children's literature the quintessential symbol of our blackness and beauty. Now I was five so I didn't know anything about politics, social issues or much about pop culture but I knew Keats' books were different from my other children's books and with a mother who fussed about her girls having black dolls, well, it's a no-brainer to see that I could make some connections. I thought the covers were beautiful and I was pleased to see a black face in a book and Peter's stories were light and fun. I grew up in a working class neighborhood and my parents earned a middle class income so I readily identified with Peter. As an adult, the one author and series I made sure I had in our house was Keats'. I didn't know till I was an adult that Keats was not black. Yes, I was surprised, but after reading about him, I felt no different about my love for his books or Peter.

What about you? What are some of your favorite children's books? Attachments? Anything new that you think is simply amazing or beautiful and you want the world to know about it? See more posts here.


Ali said...

I loved The Snowy Day, I remember it as such a peaceful and sweet book. Growing up in Wisconsin, we had plenty of snowy days so I could definitely relate.

It always amazes me when people confess that they don't read to their kids or weren't read to as children. No judgement here--I didn't read to mine as much for their edification, as for my sanity. I'm not sure how I would have gotten through those toddler years of motherhood without books in my bag of tricks, especially once I had two little ones. Hmmm, I should write a post about that sometime.

Color Online said...

Thanks, Ali.

zetta said...

I don't remember my folks reading to me, either, except my mother did when we were at school (she was my kindergarten teacher). She introduced me to EJK and I've been a HUGE fan since about 4 years old...