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Thursday, June 28, 2018

So You Want to Talk About Race

book cover for So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo
Over the past few weeks, I've been reading a book that has  helped me think and process and move my own needle a little bit as I am considering my own behavior and ideas around race.  I HIGHLY recommend So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo.    The six copies held by the MORE system are all checked out right now, so if your library doesn't own it, you might want to consider ordering a copy of this New York Times Bestseller.  I know I'm going to want to read it again (I might have to buy my own copy of this one).

I have been thinking about/working on/reading about/learning about race and racism and privilege  for many years.  I'm still a work in progress, not surprisingly.  It's a big and complex and difficult issue, and I'm a product of a society and system that have taught me bias and reinforced racism from the time I was born.  Sometimes, though, I think I end up with my own ego very much attached to being knowledgeable and insightful about the issues, which makes me less able to see the ways I need to improve, admit the ways I've messed up, and move forward.  This book has helped me take a step back and really examine this tendency, and realize that messing up is definitely going to just be part of the deal, but I still need to talk and act. 

Oluo explains a lot of basics about race and racism in a very accessible and actionable way, so its a good text for people who are just starting to bump up against these issues, but also a powerful book for people who have been thinking about this for a while.  It seems mainly written with a white audience in mind, though she does give some suggestions and ideas specifically to people of color.  She defines terms, explains concepts, provides illustrative anecdotes, examples, and analogies.  She recommends things to say in various situations, and ends with a chapter of what to do beyond talking.

If you are looking for a brief introduction, you can hear a segment she did on Wisconsin Public Radio last week! I highly recommend this book, and would love to talk to you about it once you have read it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

1000 Books Before Kindergarten App Help

an adult and toddler look at a board book together, facing away from the camera
Image credit:  Pixabay
Many libraries in IFLS-land have a terrific 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, encouraging families to read together as much as possible before school starts.  It's a fun way to promote this, and a few years ago IFLS joined with several other systems to support an app developed by the Bridges Library System to help families keep track of books and participate in their library's individual program.

And now, the marvelous Anne Hamland from WVLS has created a quick little video introducing you to the app, the marketing materials developed to support the app, and it is so great!  Take a look at this WVLS Digital Byte!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Changing Names

silver medal with embossed stars and the word winner
Image from Pixabay
This week the Association for Library Service to Children made a big decision.  They are changing the name of the award given to a children's book author for a lasting, life-long contribution to children's literature.  It will now be called the Children's Literature Legacy Award, changing from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.  This decision was made after a year of careful study by a committee, seeking input from the ALSC community.  The committee, and the board, decided that the new name was a better fit because the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, beloved by many and wonderful in many ways, also include harmful racist stereotypes and statements--particularly about American Indians, but also about African Americans.

Some folks are equating this decision with wanting to erase all the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, banning or burning her books.  I don't see it like that at all.  It is a decision to change the name of the award to one that does not associate it with an author whose works are problematic and painful.  As my friend and colleague Reb said, it is making the tent bigger, making it a tent that perhaps more people might want to come into now that its name is free of difficult baggage.  It is not erasing Wilder's work, banning her books, or even stripping her of any awards.  It is simply changing the name of an award to make it more fitting to its purpose.

I know we have a lot of Laura Ingalls Wilder fans in our area, and she lived (and set my favorite of her books) in our neck of the woods (literally).  It can be painful to look at things that we have found meaningful and enjoyable and see that there are some serious problems with them.  That doesn't mean that we get to avoid doing that.  It is true that Laura Ingalls Wilder was writing from the perspective of her time of most white settlers. It is true that her books have a lot of wonderful characters, exciting plot points, and excellent writing.  It is also true that her depictions of American Indians are inaccurate and damaging. 

Newbery-Award-winning author Grace Lin had a wonderful suggestion for how to handle beloved books that have racist elements.  You should read/watch her talk about it, but in a nutshell, she recommends treating classic children's books that have racist elements (or other problematic content) like you would a relative who is racist.  Keep an eye out for things that are racist, and talk about it with your children afterwards.  This is great advice for a family.  How can libraries put this advice into play?