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Old 02-26-2016, 03:23 PM   #1
A.T. Hagan
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Default Where's The Color In Kids' Lit? Ask The Girl With 1,000 Books (And Counting)


Marley Dias
Andrea Cipriani Mecchi


http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/...s-and-counting

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Marley Dias is like a lot of 11-year-olds: She loves getting lost in a book.

But the books she was reading at school were starting to get on her nerves. She enjoyed Where The Red Fern Grows and the Shiloh series, but those classics, found in so many elementary school classrooms, were all about white boys or dogs ... or white boys and their dogs, Marley says.

Black girls, like Marley, were almost never the main character.

What she was noticing is actually a much bigger issue: Fewer than 10 percent of children's books released in 2015 had a black person as the main character, according to a yearly analysis by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And while the number of children's books about minorities has increased in the last 20 years, many classroom libraries have older books.

Last fall, Marley decided to do something about it. She set a goal of collecting 1,000 books about black girls by the beginning of February, and #1000blackgirlbooks was born.
The rest at NPR.
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Old 02-26-2016, 03:57 PM   #2
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Publishers learned a long time ago that most kids (if they read at all) want to read about kids like rhemselves. Nancy Drew was for girls, Hardy Boys and Tom Swift were for boys. Boys won't read the Little House books or Alice in Wonderland, girls (with a few exceptions lik me! ) don't read science fiction.

So, do most black kids read? Or is reading considered a "white thing" along with most other education? If most black kids don't read, and most white kids want to read about other white kids, why would kids' publishers want to put out books with black kids as the protagonists?
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Old 02-26-2016, 04:05 PM   #3
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There is truth in what you say, but things can change.

As a boy I liked all of the Little House books and read Alice In Wonderland. Along with Homer Price, Hardy Boys, Mad Scientists Club, and eventually science fiction and fantasy.

A lot of black kids do not read for pleasure and do not have anyone who will read aloud to them. Then again so do a lot of white kids. A lot.

Kids do want to read about kids like themselves and if mainstream publishing often do not seem sufficient market to interest them there do seem to be books out there to fill those niches. What they need are exposure for people to become aware they even exist so they can start asking for them. What this child is doing is exactly that.

Good for her.
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Old 02-26-2016, 04:54 PM   #4
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As a kid, I read anything I could get my hands on, whether it was meant for girls or boys.

I think it's true that, up to a certain age, most kids need and want to read books which have characters and environments they can easily relate to. It helps young kids with the process of creating their self-identity. But after awhile, kids need to read books that open their horizons and their minds. I'd say this girl is right at that point of transition.

She deserves a lot of credit for what she's doing. Especially because she's not relying on her school to provide her with books that she thinks suit her needs. That kind of independent thinking and self-reliance are as important as her book project itself.

But I believe the real problem is this:
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And while the number of children's books about minorities has increased in the last 20 years, many classroom libraries have older books.
Public schools are having a hard time buying sufficient textbooks and classroom supplies. So very little money is spent on extras like supplemental reading books for the classroom, or books for the library. While it's good to have some classic kid's books, a lot has changed in 20 years and the books that kids have access to should reflect some of those changes. But schools don't have the money to spend on newer books that have more diverse characters and backgrounds.

And that's a shame. For many kids who's family life doesn't include having books at home, or someone who reads to them, school is the only place they get exposed to the wonders that reading can provide. But if they can't find books with characters that they can identify with when they're young, many of them will end up feeling turned off by reading. Once that happens, it's pretty much downhill from there.
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Old 02-26-2016, 05:28 PM   #5
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As a kid, I read anything I could get my hands on, whether it was meant for girls or boys.
Every book in the children's section at the Public Library, the family Bible, the Encyclopedia Britannica, dictionaries, the thesaurus, the back of corn flakes boxes, the container of Comet under the kitchen sink, bags of fertilizer, toilet paper wrappers...

We were poor. My parents worked full time and had a disabled child and elderly parents who took all their attention. I went to public school where there were 40 kids in my class. It was the Kennedy administration and the emphasis was on physical education, and I was painfully nearsighted with the physique of Olive Oyl. I was on my own. It didn't matter if the subject was aimed at boys or girls or the janitor. I was like a crack addict for the written word. I devoured *anything* that had words on it.

Kids text. They write to each other. They read each other's comments. They are engaged with each other's stories. They ARE reading... just not the same things we did. But they go one step further. They ALSO have a passion for writing and communicating with their audience. With Kindle and Print on Demand we're seeing a tsunami of new books. The cream will rise to the top, and they're going to be talking in a language their generation understands.
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Old 02-26-2016, 05:41 PM   #6
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This dichotomy confuses me sometimes. We are supposed to judge people by the content of their character, and not by their color. Wise words in deed.

Yet we have a community that frames just about everything in terms of their race, as exampled by this story. As if to say you must acknowledge and provide service to my race, but only on my terms. I'm sure that's not coming out the way it sounds in my head, but that's the best I can phrase it.

I'm sure I'm being presumptuous a bit, but I don't think we have any steady members here who have identified themselves as being of African decent, is that correct? I'd love to explore the topic a bit more with input from the other perspective.
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