Tag: African-American children’s books

University of Pennsylvania Professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas Offers List of Children’s Books That Accurately Depict Slavery

U Penn Prof. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (photo via penntoday.upenn.edu)

by Greg Johnson via penntoday.upenn.edu

Children in the U.S. are often introduced to America’s troubled and cruel history through movies, television programs, and children’s books. Historical fiction is frequently the means by which children learn about atrocities such as the enslavement of African Americans, racial segregation, Japanese-American internment, and the genocide of Native Americans.

Discourse about these topics in children’s literature can be difficult in light of the books’ overall function to inspire, transmit values, and spark young minds. But an omission or inaccurate portrayal of the crimes and suffering can do lasting societal damage to readers and how they see the world.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education, has for the past decade been exploring representations of slavery in children’s literature. Over the last six years, she and her research team have compiled a database of 160 children’s books covering slavery that were published between 1970 and 2015—almost half of all the children’s books on slavery published in the 35-year period, many of which are no longer in print.

An expert on children’s literature and the teaching of African-American literature, history, and culture in K-12 classrooms, Thomas says parents, teachers, and educators must consider questions of readership, ethnicity, class, gender, story, background, intended audience, and difficulty when selecting books for their students.

Thomas supports the criteria put forth by scholar Rudine Sims Bishop that children’s literature about slavery should, in part, celebrate the strengths of the black family as a cultural institution and vehicle for survival, and bear witness to African Americans’ determined struggle for freedom, equality, and dignity.

A page from Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life.”

Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life” is a book Thomas points to as one that successfully gives an accurate depiction of slavery, humanizing African Americans held in bondage while also conveying the truth and difficulty of slave life.

“I recommend this book. What you’re getting here is 11 slaves’ lives and dreams that are being brought to life by this author,” she says. “[Bryan] is representing their complexity in the illustrations, his writing of the poetry. I highly recommend this because it balances humanizing enslaved African Americans, but he’s also showing the complexity of their lives.”

On top of her 160-book database on slavery in children’s literature, Thomas is conducting reader response surveys in Philadelphia public schools, and has published two articles on representations of slavery in children’s books.

Thomas also praises “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom” by Shane W. Evans; “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson; “Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown” by Sally M. Walker; “Almost to Freedom” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; “The People Could Fly: The Picture Book” by Virginia Hamilton; and “Love Twelve Miles Long” by Glenda Armand.

Additionally, she is working on a book about slavery in children’s literature tentatively titled “Reading Racial History,” and she serves on the advisory board of Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History project.

Thomas says children’s literature is a prime site for social reproduction, and an unexamined site of social progress, regress, and/or transformation.

“If you have children’s media that’s regressive, and the children of today are going to be the adults of the mid-to-late 21st century, if we don’t change the children’s media that they’re being fed by, just like we still remember and talk about ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and other fictions of the long-ago Victorian and Edwardian eras, they’re going to still be influenced by these current writings—from ‘Harry Potter’ to problematic books about slavery—deep into the 22nd century.”

Read more: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/representing-slavery-childrens-literature

Tamara McNeil Creates Just Like Me!, A Book Subscription Box for Black Children

(photo via matermea.com)

article by Ashley Poag via matermea.com

Tamara McNeil loves reading to her son, and she’s not alone. It’s a daily activity that creates a bond between parents and infants as they learn the rhythm of language. Both parent and child find comfort in the cuddles shared while reading.Reading time can also come with its own set of challenges, like restlessness and a desire to find out what a book’s pages taste like. But for African-American children like McNeil’s baby boy, there’s an additional challenge—the lack of representation.

The Black community is bombarded with images of people who look like them experiencing extreme violence, sadness, and despair on an almost daily basis. The need for positive representations of African Americans in media, especially in early childhood literature, is increasingly important.

It’s why movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks started in 2014—and it’s why McNeil decided to launch Just Like Me!, a subscription box service that sends families two to three books a month based on your child’s age. For $25 a month your child will receive African-American focused literature from award-winning authors, as well as up-and-coming writers. From Black history to finding the magic in our ordinary lives, the service seeks to bring the very best of African-American children’s literature to those who need it most.

To read full article, go to: A Book Subscription Box Created For Black Children — mater mea

To visit McNeil’s website, go to justlikemebox.com

Seven Year-Old Morgan E. Taylor Writes Book to Inspire Black Girls to Embrace Their Race

(photo courtesy theroot.com)

article by Yesha Callahan via theroot.com

Seven-year-old writer Morgan E. Taylor wanted to change the face of princesses, especially in fairy tales, which aren’t the most diverse stories being told. Instead of waiting around for someone else to do it, she went out and, with help from her co-author, Todd Taylor, who also happens to be her father, wrote Daddy’s Little Princessfilled with stories featuring real-life African queens and princesses.

“Every little girl should believe she’s a princess,” said Morgan.

She also wants everyone to know that princesses come in all colors. Morgan’s goal is to share stories that build other girls’ self-esteem.

Source: 7-Year-Old Writes Book to Inspire Little Black Girls to Embrace Their Race

Marley Dias, 11, Launches Social Action Campaign to Collect #1000BlackGirlBooks

Marley Dias Book Drive 1,000 Black Girl Books
11 year-old Marley Dias at Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown, collecting books as part of her #1000BlackGirlBooks social action project. (JANICE DIAS/FOR PHILLYVOICE)

In the past year, Philadelphia native Marley Dias has successfully written a proposal for (and received) a Disney Friends for Change grant, served food to orphans in Ghana and recently launched a book club.

Dias is 11 years old.

“I’m hoping to show that other girls can do this as well,” Dias told PhillyVoice. “I used the resources I was given, and I want people to pass that down and use the things they’re given to create more social action projects — and do it just for fun, and not make it feel like a chore.”

Dias’ latest social action project is the #1000BlackGirlBooks book drive. Frustrated with many of the books she’s assigned in school, she confessed to her mother during dinner one night that she was unhappy with how monochromatic so many stories felt.

“I told her I was sick of reading about white boys and dogs,” Dias said, pointing specifically to “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the “Shiloh” series. “‘What are you going to do about it?’ [my mom] asked. And I told her I was going to start a book drive, and a specific book drive, where black girls are the main characters in the book and not background characters or minor characters.”

So far, she said, she’s collected about 400 books — nearly halfway to her goal of 1,000 by Feb. 1. The project is part of an annual social action effort she makes as part of the Philadelphia-founded GrassROOTS Community Foundation Super Camp for young girls, designed to empower and improve the health of ‘impoverished’ girls middle-school-aged and younger. Dias’ mother, Janice, cofounded the organization seven years ago with lead MC of The Roots, Tariq Trotter (aka Black Thought).

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Janice, who grew up in Jamaica, calls watching her daughter grow up with such an investment in giving back a surreal experience. She further explained that her daughter’s “#1000BlackGirlBooks” project has been eye-opening even for her.

“I didn’t need identification, or I didn’t desire it because I grew up in an all-black country,” Janice told PhillyVoice. “She’s not growing up in an all-black country; she’s growing up in a fairly white suburb, in a country that only has 12.6 percent of blacks. For her, identification is a bigger deal. … For young black girls in the U.S., context is really important for them — to see themselves and have stories that reflect experiences that are closer to what they have or their friends have.

“And it doesn’t have to be the only thing they get, but the absence of it is clearly quite noticeable.”

The two just wrapped up a book drive at Lingelbach Elementary School in Germantown but are still on their way to hitting the 1,000-book mark. By the end of the drive, they’ll put together a reference guide that compiles the book titles, authors and age groups. Books collected will be donated to a low-resources library in St. Mary, Jamaica, where Janice grew up — in the spirit of giving back to their roots.

And in case you’re wondering what Dias wants to be when she grows up:

“I want to be a magazine editor for my own magazine,” she explained, without hesitation. “And I’d also like to continue social action. For the rest of my life.”

Book donations can be sent to 59 Main St., West Orange, N.J., 07052, Office 323.

article by Brandon Baker via phillyvoice.com

Kwame Alexander’s “Crossover” and Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming” Win Newbery and Coretta Scott King Book Prizes

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 6.48.30 PM

Memoirs, graphic novels and stories in verse were the big winners of this year’s American Library Association’s awards for young adult and children’s literature. The awards, which are among the most prestigious literary prizes for children’s book authors, were announced Monday at the association’s midwinter conference in Chicago.

Kwame Alexander’s novel in verse, “The Crossover,” about 13-year-old twin brothers who are basketball stars, won the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature. Mr. Alexander also received a Coretta Scott King honor recognizing African-American authors and illustrators. It was the first A.L.A. award for Mr. Alexander, a poet and novelist who has published 17 books.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 6.49.33 PMJacqueline Woodson’s memoir in verse, “Brown Girl Dreaming” (which has already won a National Book Award), along with Cece Bell’s illustrated memoir, “El Deafo” (which chronicles her hearing loss at an early age from spinal meningitis and her struggle to fit in at school), were named as Newbery Honor books.

Ms. Woodson, whose memoir describes her childhood and coming of age in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 1970s, also won the Coretta Scott King Award recognizing outstanding African-American children’s book authors and illustrators, and the Robert F. Sibert honor for the most distinguished informational book for children.

Other winners include Dan Santat’s “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” a whimsical story for 3- to 6-year-olds, which earned the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book.

“I’ll Give You the Sun,” Jandy Nelson’s novel about teenage fraternal twins who compete over everything, won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults.

The awards come at a moment when children’s literature is holding steady as a fast-growing and profitable category for publishers. Sales of children’s and young adult books grew nearly 22 percent in the first 10 months of 2014, compared with the previous year, while sales of adult books fell slightly, according to the latest figures from the Association of American Publishers.

Here is a complete list of the winners and honorees.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Middle Grade Books for Black History Month

MightyMissMaloneFebruary is Black History month, and it’s never too soon to get prepared. There are many fabulous middle grade books, both fiction and nonfiction, that will help your family or classroom get in the groove.  One of my all-time favorite authors is Christopher Paul Curtis. His personal story reads like a novel. His bio states that he grew up in Flint, Michigan. After high school he began working on the assembly line at the Fisher Body Plant No. 1 while attending the Flint branch of the University of Michigan, where he began writing essays and fiction.

My favorite of his books is The Watsons Go To Birmingham. It’s about a family from Michigan who travel to visit their relatives in the South. Life in the South is very different from life in Michigan, as they find out. And while they are there, a church in Birmingham is bombed — while the protagonists’s sister is there. An interesting aside that I learned when talking to Curtis at a convention is that the book was originally going to be about the family visiting Orlando. When his older son came home one day with the poem, Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall, he decided to change the destination and include the bombing as part of the story. It’s a powerful book, filled with humor and typical family strife as well as illuminating the social problems of that time. Fourth, fifth and sixth graders love it. There’s a bit of magic in it (the evil “Wool Pooh”) and lots and lots of laughs but also some important historical events. Classroom teachers take note: Reading the poem after the book will REALLY provoke some emotion and thoughtful discussion from your students. There’s also a reading guide for it.

Another of Curtis’ books that is destined to be a classic is Bud, not Buddy, about a young boy leaving an abusive foster care home during the Depression to try to find his father. He has a few clues given to him by his mother, and he has the book he has written called Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. It’s a story full of adventure and humor, along with emotion and history. It’s a perfect fifth grade book for the whole class to read. Another story arose from “Bud, Not Buddy.” That book is The Mighty Miss Malone and and it also takes place during the Great Depression but with a young girl protagonist.

whatwastheundergroundrrWhat Was the Underground Railroad? is one of the “What Was…” series published by Grosset & Dunlap. Like the other books in the series, it’s a well-written nonfiction book with many interesting facts and stories. There are photographs, maps and black and white illustrations, and they add value to the information contained in the book. There are also many nonfiction text features such as “Contents” and a timeline and bibliography at the back. The reading level and interest level cover a wide range. Advanced third graders will enjoy this book as will middle school students who need slightly easier reading material.

WhoisMichelleobamaWho Was Michelle Obama? is another of the “Who Is…” books by Grosset & Dunlap. Many students know that Michelle Obama is the First Lady and wife of the President of the United States, but many may not know that she came from a family of modest means. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and her family lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a small house. The book shares information about her childhood, her education, and how she met and married Barack Obama. Interspersed between chapters are pages with information about other noteworthy First Ladies. While this book will probably appeal more to girls than boys, it’s a great nonfiction book which will appeal to a wide range of students.

Continue reading “Middle Grade Books for Black History Month”

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon Team with Scholastic to Create A Holiday Children’s Book for 2014

The “Queen of Christmas,” known for her best-selling holiday digital single “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” makes it no secret that she loves the holidays, and is preparing to release the couple’s first book in fall 2014 — just in time for the holiday season.

The celebrity couple have paired up with children’s book heavyweight Scholastic Press to publish the festive picture book, Roc and Roe’s Twelve Days of Christmas. The book, which is a spin on the classic Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” will feature the couple’s twins Moroccan “Roc” Cannon and Monroe “Roe” Cannon. The illustrations will be handled by New York Times best-selling artist AG Ford.

The Carey-Cannon clan say they are “excited to work with the Scholastic team on our Roc and Roe picture book and we can’t wait until this holiday season. ”

“It’s been such a fun and collaborative process and we are thrilled to be working with Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey on this exciting project. Roc and Roe’s Twelve Days of Christmas is the perfect book to read with your little ones—an adorable spin on a classic tale, sprinkled with humor and heart,” said Ken Geist, VP and editorial director for Scholastic Press Picture Books.

This will be the first book for both Carey and Cannon, but knowing her love for Christmas this may not be her last festive collaboration. In the meantime, Carey is preparing her new album The Art of Letting Go to be released this spring. Cannon serves as the host of America’s Got Talent.

article by M.L. Ward via uptownmagazine.com