Please welcome my guest today, Lisa Stringfellow, Co-Chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee for NESCBWI, who asks “… what can we do on an individual level to educate ourselves about issues of equity and social justice?”
More Than A Moment: Working From Within
The past few weeks have been a time of great pain in our country. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many other unarmed Black Americans by the police have forced our country to take a hard look at itself. Many are awakening to the fact that systemic racism exists and must be challenged in order to create a just and safe society for everyone.
Recent events also pose another opportunity for each of us to reflect as individuals and as a community on what actions we will take to move towards antiracism. In our work as creators of wonderful books for all children, we must engage honestly in this effort to examine ourselves, our creative work, and our organization.
You’ve probably noticed that booklists abound right now! Reading is an excellent way to begin the process. Below are two booklists, one for grownups and another for kids and teens, that can help answer questions and build background knowledge about the history of racism and white supremacy and how to disrupt it.
Antiracist Books for Grownups
- How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide by Crystal Marie Fleming
- The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
- Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony C Greenwald
- The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias by Dolly Chugh
- Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States by Erika Lee
- The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabella Wilkerson
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
- Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
Antiracist Books for Kids and Teens
- This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell; illustrated by Aurélia Durand
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza
- Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi; illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard; illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
- Salam Alaikum: A Message of Peace by Harris J; illustrated by Ward Jenkins
- Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez; illustrated by Jaime Kim
- From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
- Front Desk by Kelly Yang
- Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott; illustrated by Loveis Wise
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
- Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi
Reading is only a beginning step though. As wonderful as books are, it is what you do with the information that will make a difference. After reading, think about how you want to show up in the movement. It might mean finding ways to disrupt systemic racism, adding or boosting BIPOC voices in your social media, refusing to participate in all-white panels or festivals, examining your nostalgic children’s book favorites for harmful messages, inviting a group of friends to talk about antiracism, or studying the issues around the question of “who can write a story.”
In this age of social distancing, there have been some great virtual panels and discussions that also are excellent entry places. If you haven’t yet watched them, please do!
- NCTE Presents: A Conversation with Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- Kidlit4BlackLives Rally
- Kidlit4BlackLives Townhall: How to Raise and Teach Anti-Racist Kids
- The Juneteenth Bookfest
Finally, a great recent book for kids that is mentioned above is This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell. This work is not easy, but it’s vitally important. I’m encouraged by the rallying of many in the kidlit community to uplift the dignity of Black and brown people and the progress we’ve made in our region to become a more inclusive space.
Lisa Stringfellow was a voracious reader growing up and books always took her to places where her imagination thrived. She loves writing stories that spark that same wonder in others.
She’s also a teacher and has taught Language Arts and technology for over 25 years. Being around middle school kids all day, she’s developed patience, creativity, flexibility, and an abundant sense of humor! Visit her teaching portfolio to learn more about her classroom.
Her middle grade fantasy book, Dark Tide, will debut winter 2022.
p.s. Related posts:
A Unit to Teach Kids About Microaggressions
Can A Book Do Real Harm? Anti-Asian Racism in Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos
White Privilege Books for Kids
Rethinking & Examining Dr. Seuss’ Racism
The Racist Side of Dr. Seuss You Didn’t Know About
Racism in Children’s Books: Asian Slant Eyes
Top Children’s Books to Help You Address the Diversity of Human Race
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.