Tag: African-American Children’s Literature

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

Sidney Keys III, 11, Founds Books N Bros to Help Other Boys Fall in Love with Reading

Sidney Keys III founded Books N Bros, a reading club that emphasizes making reading fun while lifting up works of African American literature and culture. (KELLY MOFFITT | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO)

article by Kelly Moffitt via news.stlpublicradio.org

Six months ago, 11-year-old St. Louisan Sidney Keys III started a reading club for boys his age to band together in their love of books. He calls it Books N Bros, and the club has an emphasis on making reading fun while lifting up African American literature and culture.

“Books N Bros is a book club for boys and we read books and African American literature because every time I go to the library at my school, there aren’t many African American literature books there,” said Keys in an interview on St. Louis on the Air. “I already love to read and since we don’t get that much time to read in school, we just discuss in groups. I wanted to read a book but I also wanted to discuss it with other people.”

Keys’ mom, Winnie Caldwell, said she knew Sidney had always loved to read because he’d often come to her wanting to talk about books.

About six months ago, they went to visit EyeSeeMe, a bookstore in University City focusing on African American children’s literature. While there, Winnie shot a video of Sidney reading in the store and it went viral on Facebook. Some 62,000 people have viewed the video and it has been shared 1,700 times.

Books N Bros card (KELLY MOFFITT | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO)

“He hadn’t seen [a bookstore] like that before and I certainly never had, so he was making himself comfortable on the floor, reading a book,” Caldwell said. “… When you get to a point when he is 11 years old and it was so shocking for him to relate to someone on the cover in a positive aspect rather than it be some negative urban story we see a lot. I would like to make sure he sees himself in being whatever he can be.”

After the video went viral, she and Sidney sat down to think about what he wanted to do next. A book club immediately jumped to mind.

“We specifically reach out to boys around ages 8-10 because that is statistically the age they stop reading — we wanted to combat that,” Caldwell said.

Keys added: “My motivation is I already love to read but it would be awesome, even better, to read with other people. I want to keep doing it because I don’t know what will make me stop reading because I love to read.”

The club meets once a month, discussing one book the club has voted on. While their numbers are still small, the book club has grown each month. Last month, two new members joined bringing the group to 7-10 members each month. The group is welcoming to boys of all backgrounds and races, but the club does focus on stories with African American protagonists.

Keys and Caldwell have also struck a deal with the Microsoft Store at the Galleria, where the book club meets. The boys discuss their books for an hour before each gets 30 minutes to play video games on a personal console at the store. A group called Serving with the Badge also donated 200 books to the book club so boys can take books home with them for their personal collection.

Some of the book club favorites so far have been “Danny Dollar,” “Hidden Figures” and “Supah Dupah Kid.” In February, for Black History Month, the group read “A Song for Harlem: Scraps of Time,” by Patricia McKissack, a St. Louis-based children’s book author.

For now, the book club has plans to stay boys-only, but Caldwell said there’s another book club called Nerdy Girls, which is aimed at girls between ages 6-12 and has over 75 members. Caldwell and Keys plan on partnering with Nerdy Girls in the future.

Caldwell said that if there are boys who are interested in joining the club, which costs $20 per month, they can find more information on the website https://www.booksnbros.com/ or email info@booksnbros.com.

To read full article, go to: Books N Bros’ 11-year-old founder wants to help boys love reading at an age when they often don’t | St. Louis Public Radio

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

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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)

R.I.P. Walter Dean Myers, Prolific and Beloved Author of Award-Winning Children’s Books

Walter Dean Myers, beloved and deeply respected children’s book author, died on July 1, 2014, following a brief illness. He was 76 years old.

In a career spanning over 45 years, Walter Dean Myers wrote more than 100 books for children of all ages. His impressive body of work includes two Newbery Honor Books, three National Book Award Finalists, and six Coretta Scott King Award/Honor-winning books. He was the winner of the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

In 2010, Walter was the United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and in 2012 he was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, serving a two-year tenure in the position. Also in 2012, Walter was recognized as an inaugural NYC Literary Honoree, an honor given by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for his substantial lifetime accomplishments and contribution to children’s literature.

Myers at an appearance as National Ambassador
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of erudite and beloved author Walter Dean Myers. Walter’s many award-winning books do not shy away from the sometimes gritty truth of growing up. He wrote books for the reader he once was, books he wanted to read when he was a teen. He wrote with heart and he spoke to teens in a language they understood. For these reasons, and more, his work will live on for a long, long time,” said Susan Katz, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Walter Dean Myers was born Walter Milton Myers on August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg,

In Walter’s memoir, Bad Boy, he wrote, “Harlem is the first place called ‘home’ that I can remember.” This sentiment is reflected in Walter’s writing, whether via a love letter to the neighborhood in the picture book Harlem; a story of a boy’s trial for a crime committed in Harlem, in the novel Monster; or the tale of two friends struggling to see a future beyond the community they know in the novel Darius & Twig. Walter spent much of his childhood playing basketball on the courts of Harlem and checking books out of the George Bruce Branch of the New York Public Library. Florence Dean taught Walter to read in their kitchen, and when he began attending Public School 125, he could read at a second-grade level. Though Walter struggled through school with a speech impediment and poor grades, and he had trouble with discipline throughout his school career, he remained an avid reader. His love of reading soon progressed to a love of writing.West Virginia. Walter’s birth mother, Mary Myers, died after the birth of his younger sister, Imogene. His father, George, sent Walter to live with his first wife, Florence Dean, and her husband, Herbert Dean, in Harlem, along with Florence and George’s two daughters. Walter would eventually adopt the middle name “Dean” to honor Florence and Herbert.

Walter wrote well in high school and one teacher, who recognized his talent but also knew he was going to drop out, told him to keep on writing, no matter what—“It’s what you do,” she said. Walter did drop out of Stuyvesant High School, though they now claim him as a graduate (which Walter always found funny). At the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the Army. Years later, after his safe return home and while working a construction job, Walter would remember this teacher’s advice. He started writing again…and he didn’t stop.

Walter’s body of work includes picture books, novels for teens, poetry, and non-fiction alike. In 1968, Walter’s first published book, Where Does the Day Go?, illustrated by Leo Carty, won an award from the Council on Interracial Books for Children. Walter and his son Christopher, an artist, collaborated on a number of picture books for young readers, including We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart and Harlem, which received a Caldecott Honor Award, as well as the teen novel and National Book Award Finalist Autobiography of My Dead Brother, which Christopher illustrated. Walter’s novel Scorpions won a Newbery Honor Medal and the Margaret A. Edwards Award, while gritty teen novels Lockdown andMonster were both National Book Award Finalists. Monster appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, won the first Michael L. Printz Award, and received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award. His stunning Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel, Fallen Angels (1988), about the Vietnam War, was named one of the top ten American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults of all time. Twenty years later, Myers wrote a riveting contemporary companion novel, Sunrise Over Fallujah, which was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2008.

In Invasion (2010), Myers once again explored the effects and horrors of war through young protagonists, this time set in World War II. His upcoming books include Juba!, (HarperCollins, April 2015) a novel for teens based on the life of a young African American dancer, and On a Clear Day (Crown/Random House Books for Young Readers, September 2014). A graphic novel adaptation of Monster (HarperCollins) is also forthcoming.

Walter often wrote books about the most difficult time in his own life—his teenage years—for the reader he once was; these were the books that he wished were available when he was that age. Throughout his life, Walter worked to make sure young adults had the tools necessary to become hungry readers, thirsty learners, and, therefore, successful adults. He frequently met with incarcerated teens in juvenile detention centers and received countless letters thanking him for his inspirational words. Walter also worked with and mentored teenage fan and writer Ross Workman, and they published the novel Kick together. As the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012-2013, Walter traveled around the United States promoting the slogan “Reading is not optional.” He strove to spread the message that a brighter future depends on reading proficiency and widespread literacy, not only during his two-year tenure as National Ambassador, but beyond. More than anything, Walter pushed for his stories to teach children and teenagers never to give up on life.

Walter lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his wife Constance. He is survived by Constance, as well as his two sons, Christopher and Michael Dean. He was predeceased by his daughter, Karen.  “Walter Dean Myers was a compassionate, wonderful, and brilliant man.  He wrote about children who needed a voice and their stories told.  His work will live on for generations to come.  It was an honor to work with him for so many years,” said Miriam Altshuler, Walter’s literary agent.

article via cbcbooks.org

 

25 Empowering Books for Little Black Girls

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From the moment they come into the world, little black girls work just a little bit harder than their peers to construct a healthy sense of self in a society that prizes values and attributes that don’t mirror those they possess. We as their caregivers must help them find the way by offering them as many affirming messages as possible. We can do this with our words and by our example; however, books can also prove to be important points of contact into the souls and spirits of African-American girls. Here is a list of books that promote a positive self-image in younger, black females:

Ages 2-4

Girl of Mine – Jabari Asim

This companion book to Boy of Mine shows a dazzling little girl enjoying playtime in the moon’s soft glow. As daddy cradles his baby girl, she is suddenly whisked away on a fantastical adventure, swinging above lush floral gardens under the golden moonlight. The sweet text, inspired by “Rock-A-Bye Baby,” will whisk little ones off to peaceful slumber.

Lola at the Library – Anna Mcquinn

On Tuesdays, spunky Lola and her mommy go to the library. Come with Lola on her favorite weekly trip in this celebration of books and the people who love them.

I Can Do It Too! – Karen Baicker

This heartwarming story reminds us how satisfying it is to grow up surrounded by love. I Can Do It Too! affirms a little girl’s growing independence as she, too, can begin to do all the things she sees her parents, relatives and neighbors do: pouring juice at breakfast, strumming a guitar, and even riding a bike! The simple cadence of text and direct-to-the-heart art result in a book as warm and generous as its message, providing reading pleasure for toddlers, older siblings, and the grown-ups who love them.

Preschool

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale – John Steptoe

This is the tale of Mufaro’s two daughters, two beautiful girls who react in different ways to the king’s search for a wife – one is aggressive and selfish, the other kind and dignified. The king takes on disguises to learn the true nature of both girls and of course chooses Nyasha, the kind and generous daughter, to be his queen. 

Something Beautiful – Sharon Dennis Wyeth

A little girl longs to see beyond the scary sights on the sidewalk and the angry scribbling in the halls of her building. When her teacher writes the word beautifulon the blackboard, the girl decides to look for something beautiful in her neighborhood. Her neighbors tell her about their own beautiful things.

The Colors of Us – Karen Katz

Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Continue reading “25 Empowering Books for Little Black Girls”

2013 Coretta Scott King Awards for Children’s Literature Announced by ALA

HandinHandThe 44th Annual Coretta Scott King Awards for children’s literature were held Monday at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Seattle.  “Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America” by Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney won the Author Award.

Bryan Collier received the Illustration Award for the cover art of the Langston itooamamericaHughes poem “I, Too, Am America.”  Other books honored included “No Crystal Stair,” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and “Ellen’s Broom” by Kelly Starling Lyons and Daniel Minter.  

The Coretta Scott King Awards are given annually to African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding young adult and children books about the black experience.  For a full list of the 2013 winners, click here

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson