My daughter is joining a book club at school for a new book and the permission slip stated:
“The book received star reviews from the School Library Journal & Booklist but has received”Not Recommended” rating from Reading While White and American Indians in Childrens Literature. What’s the deal?.”
At first I was thinking wtf…
Sounds pretty damn racist to me. So of course I googled it.
Turns out readingwhilewhite is a group of librarians that are working on confronting racism and promoting awareness & cultural diversity in children’s books.
Much better than my first thoughts and much love to the librarians for doing this. It’s going to be a tool that I access as I continue this journey of parenting..
This is a moment that reminds me that regardless of how much I am doing on a day to day basis that there is always more to do.
Like; wtf ARE my kids reading?? How am I a white woman raising children in today’s world making sure that the books they read are promoting social justice & progress that they are not blatantly racist books; that the messages in the books they are reading are sound and safe!!??
Have I been doing that already?
Plus how DO I do that and laundry, work, feed them, clean the house, plan playdates, sign permission slips, help with homework, enrichment activities, sports, potlucks, take a shower, find socks, backpacks, water bottles, individual attention, bonding, attend to my husbands needs ( my needs..?) and yea make sure they wash their hands……you get it, you already know. It’s a lot being a parent.
This. Shit. Is. A. Lot. Of.Work.
Ad to that being socially conscious about the books my children are reading to prevent incorrect information being absorbed into their expanding minds? Sounds like a lot of work… I want to do it though; I owe it to my children!
So how do I remind myself to check in about the messages and level of racism in their daily reading? They all at read daily at home; they all read at school as well.
This is a HUGE chore. (Multitask much?) And I believe that it’s an important role that I need to learn to incorporate into our day to day lives.
We already have discussions about books, and characters in their books regularly. They love telling me about characters or new books they are reading.
This is more than that though, it’s deeper than just a quick check in.
For example the book club book in question is “Ghosts” by Raina Telegmeier. It speaks on The Day of The Dead; a Mexican Holiday.
First thought; cool it’s important for my kids to learn about all cultures and we’re not Mexican so I really haven’t spent much time learning or teaching about this holiday or about Mexican culture in general.
No sorry, Taco Tuesday does not count; neither does Cinco de Mayo; do your kids know the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo? Mine do, they also know that as US Citizens we appropriate it so we can drink tequila and eat Mexican food.
Back to topic…
After reading the reviews online; specifically to the depiction of the traditions surrounding Day of The Dead……it just seems like a conversation has to be had alongside reading the book to explain the realities of the holiday versus the fictional explanations in the book to the children reading it.
Whew. One book (that I haven’t even read yet, I must ad) and already I need to do research on the The Day of the Dead and make a little presentation for her book club to discount the false depiction of the holiday, that is IF I give a crap.
Which I do; now that I’m aware because like all things if my kids are going to learn something I want them to learn the real authentic version; not the white institutionalized racist version.
But how can I possibly keep up with everything; realistically I can’t.
Six kids in school still, and all the different stories and books they read. The different authors and different plot lines; who knows what they are being exposed to?
Something that may not seem racist in the slightest could actually be cultural appropriation in the worst way.
Here’s what I have established to guide myself through this; again this is a work in progress and I do not expect to 100% be able to do research and rewire every single thing that’s misrepresented in every single book for my children. That’s just crazy.
I do believe that when I see them reading something that I KNOW is unjust or an incorrect representation of any culture, person, lifestyle or historical event that I need to do something to repair that. I’m not trying to be a miracle worker; just doing the best I can.
Feel free to use my little handy 1-6 checklist below!
- Check in about books; have them write down the titles especially ones the school requires ( just because the school prescribed it; doesn’t mean it’s good medicine!)
- Take time to search book on Reading While White or American Indians in Childrens Literature to see if it has any reviews or recommendation’s. I’m sure there are many other book lists and websites that have the same ideology and philosophies in regards to children’s books and fighting racism.
- If so, have conversation with kids about the reviews.
- Remind kids consistently to let me know if anything seems off in their reading (definitely have come to me when the n-word was in a book multiple times)
- Read some of their books in spare time 😂(OK this is shooting for the stars but in my nonexistent spare time I will try!)
- Remind myself of steps 1-5!
This is a constant work in progress and it is so important to discuss these things and become aware of what our children are absorbing through their literacy.
Often we get so happy that our children are finally reading that we say fuck it at least they’re reading!; I am so guilty of owning Super Diaper Babies books which personally I would rather use as toilet paper than let the kids read; and guess what?
I let them read them because at least they were reading and literacy was my goal at the time..not the best philosophy now that I’m thinking about it, but it worked for some of my kids others and never got into them thank God.
It’s not only quantity it’s quality.
Jesus being a parent is hard shit. And being conscious is even harder. Being socially aware and attempting to be a white person in today’s society that isn’t racist and that is fighting against racism in all areas is even harder and every single second of the hardness is worth it; because if you don’t take the steps against racism then you are part of the problem!
When I picked up that permission slip this morning to sign it I never even considered that it would come to me writing a blog post about all of this!
I just figured I would sign it and she’d be reading at the library one day a week for the next month and it would be cool; because I love book clubs and I love reading, and I really want to foster that love of reading for my children as well.
I am thankful because now I’m more aware and I hope that this helps someone else become more aware as well.
One last question… Why is the School librarian choosing to use it for the book club if the American Indians in Childrens Literature & Reading while white – both organizations set up to promote fighting racism in lit “Don’t recommend” it….that question is still not clear to me…