I just love this interview with librarian Kirby McCurtis. Here are some key excerpts:
“I also see a big disconnect between what is real in a teens’ life and what is being written about. This can be in terms of the skin color of the characters or the experiences they are having in the story; especially in terms of ‘neat’ endings. In the communities I choose to work, many of the teens can’t see themselves in books. We are asking teens to suspend disbelief in a time when that is so difficult for them and then expecting the positivity toward reading to still be alive. They are not comfortable being the black sidekick; they are at a school with constant budget cuts so the resources they need have been taken away; where there are over 67 languages spoken but no one speaks theirs.
Many teens are experiencing a reality that is free from shelter and protection—poverty, homelessness, racism, unemployment, violence, hunger. And they want to see books that reflect these realities. Labeling books that have mature content as not suitable for reading in a school environment stigmatizes the books and makes reading a boring chore. It seems curious to me that movies are not policed in the same way books are; PG-13 has violence but kids and teens are still encouraged to go see the latest blockbuster. A book with violence for example does not get the same support.”
What better way to get younger kids feeling belonging in the world than with Black Storytimes. Some of the most wonderful programming I’ve done in my max units is teach the boys how to read to their children or younger sibling. They themselves might not have been read to as a youngster. As I am modeling, by reading to the 16 and 18 year old “gangsters,” some are sucking their thumbs and twirling their hair. Sweet. It’s never too late for a happy childhood.
Some of my favorite books to share:
On the Day You Were Born
Shades of Black
Masai and I
Willie and Hugh
Go Away, Big Green Monster
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
Day of Ahmed’s Secret
more to come when I can get into my closet for the storytime books…..