Books & Beyond: Going back to our literacy roots

diversity charactersWhat would you think if you saw this headline:

Where are the books about kids like us?

Would you think We Need Diverse Books? I did. Then I read the article, a feature on the KidsPost page commemorating Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday.

That question was posed to her in the late 1940s; and it led to the birth of Henry Huggins in 1950. I’m sure many of you know the story. Cleary was a librarian at the time, and a young boy “who wasn’t impressed with the books on the shelves” wanted to know where he’d find a book about a boy like him.

The first thing that struck me is that boys DO want to read. They want to see themselves. The other thing that struck me is the timelessness of readers want to know *they* are in a book.

As I was still thinking about those two things, I spotted another headline. This one at the top of the Washington Post Sports section: ‘I didn’t see many players who looked like me.’ It is a story about Willie O’Ree, the first black player to skate in the National Hockey League (NHL). O’Ree is working to make sure that “children of all colors have opportunities to learn and excel at the sport.” Since 1998, when the NHL launched its Hockey is for Everyone initiative, 45,000 boys and girls have been introduced to the sport. Cool, huh?

It’s been a couple weeks since those articles came out, but my thoughts keep going back to them.

  • All of us want the comfort / confidence / sense of belonging that comes when you connect with others in our community. Whether it is the characters in a book, the kids on your hockey team, and many other corners of our lives. This isn’t a “phenomenon” it is a timeless feeling that resides within our hearts.
  • “Be the change you want to see.” O’Ree was making a difference in hockey well before 1998 when the NHL created a program to bring his work to a national level.

So why am I getting all philosophical? Because I’ve grown weary.  I feel as though we, as folks passionate about literacy are going in circles. We share ideas and recommendations among ourselves, but not breaking through to get the message where its needed most. It also seems as though there has to be a “cause” or a hashtag or other rallying cry to *think* about taking action. Last, it seems that the acrimony of the presidential race seems is spilling over into other areas, and meaningful discussions where people listen and/or can agree-to-disagree are hard to come by.

Put all that together, and being passionate about literacy isn’t as much fun as it used to be. For me.

So for the time being, I’m going to step away from blogging and go out into the real world.

Rather than write about literacy, I am going to volunteer and work with kids who need literacy help. The summer slide is coming and there are kids who can use the extra help this summer.

Rather than support a rallying cry or talk/argue about what is wrong with and/or missing in publishing, I’m going to seek out the books that are already here and rely on you to tell me about new ones. I will read as widely as possible so I can help readers find books where they will see themselves.

I will still be running the Reading Tub and building the FLIP app, and I’ll continue to write The Wash Rage, our newly revamped newsletter.  I’ll still be active on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, sharing great ideas and book reviews wherever I find them.  Where this blogging hiatus takes me, I don’t know … and that’s Okay.

2 responses to “Books & Beyond: Going back to our literacy roots

  1. Oh, Terry, I think we all grow weary sometimes. I like how you are turning your weariness regarding the conversation in a positive direction by reaching out in the real world. I hope that you find what you’re looking for. The acrimony is part of what nearly drove me away late last year, and was certainly a factor in my shifting my blog’s direction a bit. I’ll look forward to seeing what you share on social media, etc. Enjoy your time away from the blog.

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