Follow me now….
Last year I reviewed the book The Mzungu Boy (Groundwood, 2005), by Kenyan born author, Meja Mwangi, after working with a teacher who spent most of her summer preparing for the novel – which was new to her curriculum. You see, the language arts faculty members were eager to diversify their reading selections, so she and I worked tirelessly trying to locate resources, to no avail. As a result, I created a wiki for the book, with basic activities that could be used in class.
The following article was featured in School Library Journal.
A Wiki Gives a Worthy Book New Life By Amy Bowllan — School Library Journal, 9/1/2008
I encountered a rare black hole. Not a single teacher-created lesson plan could be found for this story. This seemed incredible given the quality of the book, a charming, yet riveting tale of two boys seeking friendship and adventure spanning cultural divides. Set in colonial Africa in the 1950s…
But our experience with the The Mzungu Boy—a story rich with ideas for learning—begs the question: Why do some books have related online resources for the classroom teacher while others do not?
While that question is still a mystery to me, well not really because what I learned was, when it comes to what students read, it depends on the teachers – or savvy librarians and parents - not necessarily the authors. So if a teacher uses the safety, tried and true, one-stop shopping, novels – with all the resources one has available to her – then who in their right mind would want to venture out and have their students read new releases? In the nutshell, no online, easy-to-access resources, means no new novels will enter the classroom doors. That’s my opinion.
But lately I’ve been wondering if that’s the reason why "less than 3% of all published kidlit authors last year were black:" (via Zetta Elliot sending me data from the CCBC) I am not an author, so this issue has never been on my radar, until now.
This brings me to my next question.Why? I know it’s been a topic of discussion for the librarians, and authors of color communities, but for parents and teachers, I wonder if they’ve given this issue much thought.
At Chasing Ray there’s extensive discussion around the issue of "What a girl wants#3 Representing All Girls, "In the sea of titles with straight white female (blonde) main characters, there are disturbingly few that are African American, Native American, Jewish, Muslim, Asian American, Indian, LBGT and on and on."
After writing about Dr. Stanley’s book, Night Fires, and Zetta Elliot’s Lesson Plan, it prompted me to check my own kids’ reading list.
I was shocked! My son has NO, and I mean not ONE author of color listed, and my daughter has one, Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes. Out of a five page list, there’s only one. Initially I was outraged. Okay I still am miffed that I didn’t pay attention to this before, and quite frankly I am not sure why I hadn’t. I will say that teachers are the ones who put these lists together and if they are not aware of new releases, or care to diversify their selections, how will they know? Who’s responsible, the librarian? The teachers? Maybe the authors?
E-mails have been sent out to publishers to hear their voices. I have to thank Sourcebooks publishing for responding to me so quickly. They will have their thoughts in a future post.
Thanks to author/educator, Dr. Zetta Elliot, who provided me with resources which is helping me to untangle, in my own mind, what’s going on. This week you’ll also hear from authors, in the know.