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Everybody Has A Story To Tell: Part 1

As most of you already know

…last week I hosted a symposium at my school: A Conversation About Books, and  for some reason – the more I reflect on it – the more I think about how much it reminded me of a blog.  Meaning…it had EVERYTHING!  

Here are some snippets from Zetta’s speech.

There were questions to ponder; a speaker who shared her story; publishers who shared their new releases. There were books and resources to share, and attendees who shared their feedback.  And while I am on a share ‘tear’,  there was also FOOD…to share!  *smile*

Why did it take me a week to write about my feedback?

Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was well received.  We’re our own worst critics. (((More about that in Part 2.))) 

So it took a week for me to process all of this, and then something out of no where hit me like a bat! POW! Conferences/workshops/panels/speeches – all of these professional development opportunities are rapidly changing and they are NOT at all the way they used to be.  They are no longer static! I guess it’s the nature of the beast when you’re in a world filled with sharing and sharers

It’s organic, yet unpredicatable, when entering today’s forums, what will be the expectation. That said, the 21st century conference goers MUST appreciate that just like the rapidfire ways that are changing: books, schools, technology, social networking, teachers, etc., Today’s conferences are changing, too! Are we ready?!

So not to overwhelm you, today, I will the symposium outline and the feedback. That way you will fully grasp my own feedback, as to how I feel it went.  I don’t mean to milk this. I just want it to be crystal clear.

You’ll also notice that I have removed the W.A.R from my headline. I did this because I believe, and as a result of the symposium, next steps are in order. Next steps meaning, YOUR STORY, MY STORY, and why Zetta’s story was an important one for attendees to hear.

(((Part 1 – My thank you letter which was sent last Friday, included the attendees’ feedback. You’ll see, really good stuff emerged!!! Also, if any of you are interested in joining my growing committee, send me an e-mail. We will have another symposium in the fall – fingers crossed.)))

Hi, everyone!

Thank you so much for visiting Hewitt and participating in A Conversation About Books! It was a terrific start to what I am sure will be an ongoing discussion for educators everywhere.

As promised, here are your responses from the symposium questions, which are pretty provocative. And for those who were unable to attend, here is the link to the packet of resources.

In the coming weeks, I will be assembling a small committee to discuss ways to continue the conversation…If you are interested in participating, please e-mail me.

 Have a great weekend!


(((To open the symposium, I presented the visitors with these three questions.)))  

1)    What did you hope to gain by attending this conference?

  • To learn about new important titles and new insight in using this collection
  • To learn about more books that I can add to the library
  • Share my experiences working in schools that have a majority black population and in schools where black population is the minority
  • Another lens with which to analyze the LS collection & ways to promote diversity in books
  • I hope to find good source for new title, authors & themes
  • Connections to where and how I can find diverse faces in books
  • To collect a list of quality books that others have vetted and used in the classroom & to perhaps get an idea of how they’re used
  • Get insights on how to evaluate books for authenticity
  • Meet people – learn how diversity professional & librarians are working together
  • Want to hear what others are doing – are there “mandates” How did/does the topic come up?
  • Some new book ideas for my classroom
  • I hope to share ideas about introducing books on all aspects of diversity to our students
  • An understanding of hero schools would ideally like to incorporate diversity through books into their curricula and an understanding of the wholes that publishers can help to fill
  • A chance to think about the topic – diversity in the literature and to hear what others have to say about it & to know what books others recommend
  • Coming from the publishing side, I am interested in hearing what books teachers and librarians select and why.

 2)    What is your favorite book that reflects some aspect of diversity?

a.     Octopus Hugby Laurence P. Pringle 

b.     Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

c.     The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

d.     Boy Meets Boyby by David Levithan

e.      The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss (Author)

f.       The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Puffin Classics) by Mark Twain 

g.     Homeless Birdby Gloria Whelan

h.     Crossing Jordanby Adrian Fogelin

i.        Spite Fencesby Trudy Krisher

j.        A Step From Heaven by An Na (Jan 13, 2003)

k.     Looking for a Moose  by Phyllis Root

l.        Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin

m.   Honky by Dalton Conley 

n.     The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

o.     The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie

p.     Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples

q.     Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami

r.       The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

s.      Unaccustomed Earth: Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

t.       Anything written by Jackie Woodson  or illustrated by Kadir Nelson

u.     Flossie and the Fox by Patricia McKissack

v.     Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

w.   BIRD by Zetta Elliott

x.     “Where’s Ramona Quimby, Black and Pretty

y.     One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Author)

z.      Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

 3)    What is the greatest challenge incorporating diverse material into your schools?

  • Getting children of color to take out books that reflect their own culture
  • Finding the material! Ordering the material!
  • Resistance from teachers
  • Finding material set in today – current
  • Verifying authenticity especially for Native American characters
  • To find material
  • Presenting books w/dialect – great message
  • Get students to read beyond their comfortable boundaries
  • Time to work closely with teachers as they are developing curriculum
  • Current
  • Drawing the interest of the girls and concerns about having conversations with the girls that the parents may not support
  • Finding books for all age levels that incorporate the entire “diversity spectrum”
  • The challenge finding quality literature, especially in early chapter books


  1. I’d also like to point out that Zetta and I worked together on organizing the program.

  2. That’s very gracious of you, Amy, but YOU are the driving force behind ALL of this; I only contributed a couple of ideas…I think the name change is really affirming–we are still battling against racism, but the point of view is very positive: everyone has a voice and a story AND the capacity to listen and learn…

  3. I agree with you, Zetta! The little boy who I saw today in a wheelchair, making his way around NYC, was also reaffirming — and prompted me to wonder — WHAT IS HIS STORY? It’s important for students to approach their learning experience with THAT as the guiding question. WE ARE ALL REPORTERS! :)

  4. Great post, which everyone should be interested. This blog may become my favorite.