Happy Autumn to you and yours. It makes sense to write about fall and Halloween titles but as I read previous articles by Director Johnson and others, I found that these topics have already been excellently covered. Also, many of the featured titles are currently checked out.
I am going to shift gears and talk about a conference for youth services providers I recently attended. Much of the discussion was on inclusion, diversity, and cultural awareness in books and services for children.
For some communities, these words are scary. For some they are divisive. For me, they remind me that the children who walk through the library doors have many experiences in common with me.
I remember as a child that I liked surprises (I still do). I loved being in the mountains and I especially liked playing in the streams. I always “accidentally” fell in and as my clothes were already wet, I was allowed to continue to play in the water. I think most children enjoy playing outdoors!
In addition to the experiences that we share, there are also experiences that we don’t share. When I was young (1960s), I was not able to read books told from the perspective of kids from other cultures or backgrounds because those books were not written.
It is good to see that more children’s books are being written and produced by people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Book publishers have been pressured to feature more diverse characters and stories for children – authentically told and presented.
Here are just a few recently published books that follow the criteria mentioned.
• Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan – Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Her best friend Soojin is suddenly hanging out with the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
• Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids – A collection of intersecting stories by both new and veteran Native writers bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride. Ages 8-12.
• Curls by Ruth Forman – Stars four friends who celebrate the joy of their hairstyles from bouncing curls to swinging braids. Board Book
• A Different Pond by Phi Bao – A fishing trip for a son and father. Between hope-filled casts, the father tells his son about their homeland of Vietnam. Ages 4-8.
• Holi Hai! by Chitra Soundar – Gauri is excited to splash colors on everyone for Holi. But when she doesn’t get her favorite color, Gauri gets mad. Will she find a way to overcome her anger and join in the festivities? Ages 4-8.
• Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd – When twelve-year-old Olive, who suffers from brittle bone disease and has been homeschooled all her life, finally attends
school in person she soon discovers fitting in is not that easy, but if she can find the magical wish-granting hummingbird that supposedly lives nearby, and prove herself worthy, maybe her deepest wish will be granted. Ages 8-12.
• Zonia’s Rainforest by Juana Martinez-Neal – Enjoying days spent with animal friends near her home in the Amazon, young Zonia wonders what to do on a day when the rainforest calls out to her for help, in a lushly illustrated story that is complemented by back matter about the Asháninka community. Ages 4-8.
The Youth Services Department is committed to providing books and materials that give us windows into the worlds of others and mirrors to see our own experiences reflected. We all deserve diverse books.
The article originally appeared in the O’Fallon Weekly.