Disability and Difference in Literature

This week I read Girls Like Us, El Deafo, “The Real Deal: Teen Characters with Autism in YA Novels,” “Inclusive Literature in the Library and the Classroom,” and “Book Therapy: The Power of Picture Books for an Inclusive Classroom.”

El Deafo was such a fun book, it’s comic strip vibe made the characters more entertaining and interesting. The depictions of the background characters to CeCe’s hearing loss seemed so relatable because this seems to be the default when people don’t understand what we are saying. We get loud, we slow things down and we talk with our hands but typically not in a way that helps describe what we are saying any better. This was a beautiful insight into one person’s experience growing up with and later without hearing. This would be a wonderful addition to any library but especially in schools for inclusion and diversity. It is important for children to learn about disabilities so they can either find themselves in the books or so that they can understand people they may come across.

    Girls Like Us was a powerful and heartbreaking but wonderful book. Biddy and Quincy were part of the Special Education program at their school and are paired to live together after they graduate. They are very opposite in personality but they learn and grow together through experiences, living with one another and their friend Lizbeth. Each of these girls goes through a very traumatic experience and they deal with it differently but they find a commonality that brings them so much further in their own paths. This is a book that is good for understanding disability, bullying, sexual assault and more. It would be a great addition to a high school or public library; it would promote inclusion and diversify the library’s collection.

Each of the articles were enjoyable and brought great advice and insight into disabilities and literature. I thought there were some ideas that highlighted the fact that a child in the classroom or school has a disability and I think it would be best to work it into regular lesson plans. I think highlighting difference makes the person you are trying to include feel more isolated. I like the idea of “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes” because you could present a variety of differences and disabilities for everyone to get a small window of insight into what it is like everyday for others. I think other exercises to include with readings would be having speakers come visit the classroom or library, incorporating volunteer events, and open dialogue always helps. I agree that having characters with disabilities are important because , like I have said in previous weeks, everyone should be able to find themselves in a book. They should be able to find their similarities and understanding in a book even if they cannot always find it in the real world. It is important to review these books as you would any other. You should find books that are well received by the disabled community with realistic and accurate characters.

Cultural Flashpoints

This week I read The Hate U Give, The Hate List, “The Portrayal of Bullying in Young Adult Books: Characters, Contexts, and Complex Relationships,” and “Two Professors Critique the Representations of Africans and African Americans in Picture Books.”

The Hate List is a powerful book about a school shooting, the aftermath, bullying and the struggles teens/young adults deal with while in school. Valerie is confused about who she is after her boyfriend decides to open fire at their high school and then kills himself. The problem is she helped him make his list for the killings, she just didn’t realize that would ever happen. Her family is in shambles, she has a hard time figuring out who she is and who she wants to be while the bullying does not seem to stop after the shooting. This is an important book for students and parents alike; school shootings are happening more often across the country and it is important to have a book that sparks discussions about this topic. Students see these shootings and hear about them as much as us adults do so it is important to gauge how they feel about what is happening and get a window into what other students have been through. For those who have been through it this book is a mirror of what they went through.

The Hate U Give, I was so excited to read this book for class because I have been dying to read it personally. The movie is going to be amazing though not as good as the book because let’s be honest they never are. This book covers police brutality and race issues. Starr is from a low income neighborhood but goes to a high end private school. She feels like she has to be two different people to fit into both worlds. She is present when her friend is killed by a police officer and faces a lot of pressure from the two communities she is part of. Police brutality is a hot topic in today’s society and racial profiling is a huge part of the issue. This book, like The Hate List, is both a mirror and a window into the pressures and fears that come with other races. Students face these issues everyday and if they are not personally impacted they certainly see it in the world around them it is important that schools provide a safe place for them to explore this issue and talk about it how they see fit. I think including discussion questions and opening the floor up to the students to describe what they felt while reading the book would make a greater impact.

The Portrayal of Bullying…” was a wonderful read; it was interesting to see the most popular types of bullying brought up in literature but even more interesting to see that there was usually more than one form utilized. The books selected in the study give a fairly well rounded account of what books with bullying in them have to offer. Most are from the point of view of the bullied with a couple from the bully’s point of view. While some tackle bullying head on others have it in the background. Bullying is so prominent in today’s society an author would be remiss to avoid the topic. There are so many ways to bully today than there were a decade ago. It is important for children to read that they are not the only ones being bullied and that it is not the end there are people who care and are willing to help. I will definitely be adding a few of the books from the study to my own TBR list to get a better understanding of the topic. “Two Professors….” this article was refreshing, it was a breakdown of a study of picture books with African or African American characters compared by a white woman and an African American woman both in Literature fields of study. It was roughly 50/50 for books they agreed on and didn’t agree on. Their conversation and honesty with each other in order to truly understand how these books were being produced and received was very interesting to read. They picked a well rounded source of books with authors of different races to see how they held up.

Multiculturalism in Literature

It is important to have books with diverse characters, settings, etc. because there should be a book for every person out there. Everyone should be able to find something they can relate to and have a character that mirrors them so they feel represented and “normal.” This week I read Ms. Marvel No Normal, Last Stop on Market Street as well as articles by Berlatsky, Gangi and Warsinske. Each of these readings gave me greater insight into the importance of diversity in literature. It is typical to read what we know so it is important to have books that relate to everyone. Each year I like to join one of the book challenges that ask you to read outside of your box which are a lot of fun and gives you the opportunity to try new books from across the genres. I felt like this week’s readings and assignments made me want to delve into more books with multiculturalism and I added quite a few to my TBR wishlist. I would like my professional library, when I get to that point, to reflect a diverse population of books to mirror the diverse population of people that are out there.

Ms. Marvel was a wonderful comic book, I want to get the rest of the series in and see how Kamala/Ms. Marvel’s story continues. It was so cool to Kamala grow into her own superhero and to grow into her beliefs. So many teenagers feel out of place and different add to that her Muslim religion and “weird” foods for lunch it is basically wearing a target in high school these days. The creators of this novel balanced the school, family, superhero life so realistically. Kamala was struggling with her beliefs and finding where she fit into those beliefs that she thought being someone else would help. As so often happens the grass was not greener on the other side and she quickly found her rhythm in a superhero version of herself rather than the superheroes she read about. I think that is an important message in itself, that you are enough and the exploration of who you are is normal.

Last Stop on Market Street was adorable and really covered a large spectrum of diversity in the illustrations and the story. This is a great picture book for elementary students and older about the people you come across on a daily basis and not drawing conclusions based on their appearance. This was just beautifully illustrated and written, it is a very quick read but the message is lasting.

Gangi makes so many good points throughout “The Unbearable Whiteness of Literacy Instruction: Realizing the Implications of the Proficient Reader Research.” Mirror books or books in which the reader can see themselves are so important to have in a collection because while it is a mirror book to one group it is a window to others. It is important not only to see ourselves in the books we read but to see other cultures and backgrounds so we may better understand them as well. I also agree that it is important to find diverse books that are well received by diverse groups rather than by a group that has no skin in the game for lack of better description. We can say there are diverse characters but if it is not well received by the group in which is depicted than it really is not a fair assessment. Warsinske’s article touched on keeping diverse books just to be diverse and I would say that would not be the ultimate goal. It is important to have books within your collection that are well received all around but if you have a book that is not being checked out and promotions are not helping that factor, I think it would be beneficial to look up popular books with diversity and add them to the collection while weeding the ones that are not resonating with your patrons. Berlatsky really touches on how awesome Ms. Marvel is because she is so normal while noting that it is rare to have a female superhero of color headlining a comic book. His article was so spot on because there are so few characters of color or different ethnic backgrounds that are featured as lead superheroes and yet Kamala/Ms.Marvel is so similar to all the other stories.

 

Censorship in Children’s Literature

It was very disconcerting to learn of the different filters that are applied to library tools. I agree with Angela Maycock, in,”Issues and Trends in Intellectual Freedom for Teacher Librarians” article, that it would be better for librarians to show children and patrons how to utilize the tools properly rather than censoring what they are searching for. Library’s are a safe space for people of all backgrounds and it should have the tools that everyone needs to feel comfortable with who they are. I have a friend who in high school couldn’t do research on his hometown of Cumming, GA because it was censored for inappropriate language. If we want to create great minds we want to teach them how to use the tools at their disposal without limiting their interests and ways of life because the company, school board, community, etc. does not understand or want to deal with the curiosity of youth.

And Tango Makes Three was such an adorable book I was surprised that it had been challenged so many times. Yes there is a gay penguin couple but the people that can relate to that book are not just LGBTQ but people who have rainbow children (kids born after miscarriages), people who cannot have children, etc. When a child reads this book they see adorable penguins expanding their family they don’t understand the ins and outs of the relationship between Roy and Silo. Children are taught to judge or dislike they do not inherently do so from birth. If we make a big deal out of an issue they will too. It was difficult to read that the issues were not about the illustrations or the story line but more specifically the LGBTQ connotations within the book. The creators of the book wanted to support inclusion and this is a wonderful story to do it with. It is a true story of penguins at the Central Park zoo so children could learn more about them if they wanted and it is an easy way to explain to other children what their family is like.

As someone who supports and cherishes the LGBTQ community I find it heartbreaking that challenges are made or filters are added that might hinder this community or any other for that matter. I am a firm believer that understanding one another is the best way to get along and avoid conflict. Everyone won’t be best friends but if we came at things from a perspective of this is your life and you are not hurting anyone so live it to the fullest I think it would be a better place. Children should have books that can relate to their lives so they feel special and included in the world. Literature is our escape from the real world and its where we learn so many things to limit that for anyone is a detriment to us all.

LGBTQ in Literature

Beyond Magenta, Between Mom and Jo and the articles read this week were interesting. As an ally for LGBTQ rights and equality, I agreed with the articles and the idea that literature with LGBTQ characters and themes are important to have in your collection. It is important that children be able to find books that represent them to see that they are not alone. For children who are not LGBTQ it is good to see life from another perspective in order to breed acceptance and understanding. There is a lack of literature with LGBTQ characters and themes and the ones that are out there are not made widely available at all libraries. Librarians have a unique position to provide information and understanding through literature. We can make sure that children have access to books that relate to them and a safe place for them to be who they are.

Beyond Magenta is a beautiful book of personal stories from the source of what it is like to transition and what that experience entails. Each person’s transition is different so this book provides different points of view and different experiences for the readers to relate to and gain understanding of transgender and their paths. This book would be a great addition to any library’s nonfiction section for everyone to learn about transgender transitions and the obstacles they run into but also for those who are not sure who they are. It is important to have an escape from the obstacles to see you are not alone and books like Beyond Magenta provide that.

Between Mom and Jo is a heartbreakingly honest book about growing up in a home with two moms, divorce/separation, bullying. Nick was bullied because he had two moms by students and staff alike. This book gives insight into the things that children and adults of the LGBT community go through on a regular basis that those that are outside of it just don’t think of. This book shows that LGBT community members are not alone in their experiences and shows what lack of acceptance does to a person, to a child.

Global acceptance is not going to happen overnight but inclusion of LGBT literature should. Every library should have fiction and nonfiction books with LGBT literature for its patrons to check out. If theses items are challenged there is the defense that the books are ALA, they are important to patrons and if the book is not enjoyed by a certain group they have the ability to not check it out. No one should walk into a library and find no books that seem familiar to them or something that relates to them. It is also important to read outside of our comfort zones and our communities to truly understand the world around us.

Accelerated Reading

I am not really sure what I thought accelerated reading was before this week’s readings. I guess I was thinking of it more as an advanced course or extracurricular activity. I like the idea of accelerated reading and how it can build upon a student’s reading level. For students who are behind their grade level it helps them build confidence, create an excitement for reading, find passions and hobbies. I don’t think this is the only program to subscribe to for reading promotion but I think it is a wonderful starting point. As students progress in school it would be beneficial to build a program that grows with them and keeps them engaged. I am not 100 percent sure what that would look like but the concept seems like it would be the best route.

I really liked how Solley and Luck found ways to reach their students while utilizing the system. Solley found a way to reach a child who was behind in his reading level and had become rebellious to cover for that insecurity. He became so engaged and really stuck to the agreement which gave him confidence and a love of reading. It broke my heart that he moved schools and there was not more to the story for him, at least not that we could read. It is the reason I want to be a librarian, I want to bring a joy of reading to students, build their confidence and help them learn and engage in their learning.

Social Justice in Books and Schools

Sold, Rickshaw Girl and Inside Out and Back Again were beautiful and heartbreaking stories. They are wonderful examples of Social Justice in books and I think they would be great additions to any library collection. I agree that William Ayers said it best when it comes to teaching social justice, “Teaching for social justice is teaching that arouses students, engages them in a quest to identify obstacles to their full humanity, to their freedom, and then to drive, to move against those obstacles.”  As a student I couldn’t think of a better way to learn than to see different aspects and be asked to think critically about the issues people face here in America but also around the world. As a future librarian I would want that for the students who came to my library. I would want them to see beyond their small corner of the world to what else is out there and perhaps find their passion along the way. Critical thinking is such an important part of learning and gives students a drive to learn more and participate more in the class because they want to share their points of view.

“Adolescent Literature and Reader Response: ‘It’s about Global Awareness and Social Justice!’ ” was such an amazing read. There were so many points that I agreed on both as a student and as a guide for how I would like to run my library one day. Global awareness and social justice are such important topics for all ages but bringing it into schools allows children to begin critical thinking and understanding the world they live in at an early age. “Literature has the power to transform our thinking,” is spot on what we read can change how we think and how we perceive life around us. If we want to teach children that they can be and do anything they put their mind to we need to broaden what we teach them so the options are as endless as we say they are. There are many obstacles that may pop up along the way but they are simply that, obstacles. Reading the stories of those who have overcome their obstacles and even those who didn’t are important for children and all ages really to see the many possibilities and paths that life offers. Rickshaw girl I was rooting for Naima and all of her ideas because while she was told a daughter is no good she found a way to help. Lakshmi, in Sold, was so brave to give up everything she knew to work in the city and bring money for her family. She didn’t want to go but she was brave for her mother and later when she goes to the American hoping for a better life for her. The formats for Inside Out and Back Again as well as Sold were so different and interesting. They were almost like poems but also like diary entries. The reader is drawn in like they are a part of the story too.