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2016 April

27

Apr
2016

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Wait by Antoinette Portis

On 27, Apr 2016 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

WaitWait written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis

From Goodreads: As a boy and his mother move quickly through the city, they’re drawn to different things. The boy sees a dog, a butterfly, and a hungry duck while his mother rushes them toward the departing train. It’s push and pull, but in the end, they both find something to stop for.

Well I feel judged after reading that. I actually have really liked all the Antoinette Portis’ books I have read. Not A Box is one of my all time favorites because it embodies the makerspace spirit and idea and children love it, even the older ones.

Portis’s illustrations are always charming and the thick black lines and use of white space really give it a child-like feel that I think appeals to kids. Portis also really captures what a child would want to stop and look at in the story too and draws your attention to these things even before the mother notices them, giving the reader the little boy’s perspective. The few repeated words on the pages with engaging pictures make this a good one for pre-readers. They can skip the words all together or quickly memorize the three or four words used. This also makes the book less suited to school libraries (unless you have very young audiences), but perfect for public libraries.

But as a parent I kind of take issue with the book. Sure, it’s a creative and beautiful book with a wonderful message, but I also feel like I don’t need something else adding to my mommy guilt. We all know we need to slow down and I do think the book reminds us that there is a time and a place to do that, but it can feel pretty judgemental to parents. All told I like the book as it encourages us to slow down, but if you have any kind of parental guilt, it’s going to strike a bit close to home.

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25

Apr
2016

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

The State of: My Personal Collection

On 25, Apr 2016 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

The Collection

Okay, I forgot to count exactly how many books we have and really the number tallied isn’t quite the right number since there are a few collections not included (more on that below) and a pile or two I may have forgotten. There are books all over our house, not surprisingly. There are about 320 picture books. I don’t have very many chapter books lying around yet since my daughter is not even reading yet so they are not in here.

I thought this would be an interesting collection to look at and was spurred on by this talk by Grace Lin. It also prompted me to get rid of a lot of books I had, but didn’t really like (or my daughter wasn’t really interested in). It’s also given me a good look at where I would like to build the collection up (more diversity, not surprisingly). Multitasking for the win! I was able to purge and look at how I can better support diversity in our home.

The Numbers

Once again the numbers don’t lie, I need to work on building diversity in my home collection too. In this first chart none refers to books with weren’t really nonfiction, but didn’t really feature people or animals prominently or have inanimate objects (think The Day the Crayons Came Home).


Thoughts and Ideas

I got most of the books tallied, but not all of them. I think it doesn’t really matter if I have all of them it wasn’t going to push my numbers either way.

I did not included our poetry books in this count as most of them don’t have main characters (although many feature incidental diversity). I also skipped the non fiction collection for basically the same reason. Only a handful even feature people that could be counted for their diversity or lack of diversity.

I also did not tally in our holiday collection. It would have skewed our numbers for sure, but really that part of our picture book collection is all about supporting the holidays we celebrate as a family. Unlike the library collection there is only one child using this collection and she is white and German, so that’s very strongly reflected in our holiday books. I would very much like to get a handful more diverse holidays, but those books will primarily be informational since we don’t celebrate Ramadan or Kwanza or Diwali. I guess what I’m trying to say is these are probably not books we’ll own, but will get from the library. I want to read them, but I would rather devote the money I have to spend on books for us to building diversity elsewhere.

Can you tell I have a soft spot for animal books? So does my daughter. Too bad animal books often look pretty white too.

All in all, we need more diversity. The bulk of this collection was built while I worked in a book store in my very early twenties at which point I was totally oblivious to everything. Meaning, the bulk of the collection was built completely unintentionally. I did get a fair amount of diversity in despite that, but not nearly enough. As the years have continued I’ve added favorites of mine as well as things that I know feature diversity and are amazing books to boot.

I have work to do, but as with all the collections, this will be better and easier with these numbers in hand.

I would love to see more Native American stories and books in here and, considering the wonderful stuff I’ve seen lately, I’m surprised I don’t have more. I did recently weed through the folk tales portion of our collection so that I could remove anything that wasn’t quality content and that basically removed a good portion of those books. I would rather have fewer high quality ones than a lot of crappy, racist books.

This is going to be really good when I start buying chapter books. I can be super intentional as I build up that collection (seriously I have maybe 25 upper elementary and middle grade chapter books).

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20

Apr
2016

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby

On 20, Apr 2016 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Sunday ShoppingSunday Shopping written by Sally Derby, illustrated by Shadra Strickland

From Goodreads: Sunday nights are special for Evie and Grandma. That s when they go on their weekly shopping spree. Grandma flips open the newspaper to see what s advertised, and the imaginary tour of neighborhood stores begins. Toting a wallet filled with colorful pretend bills, Evie and Grandma take turns buying whatever catches their fancy. A big chunk of ham, a sofa with a secret, and a dress with spangles are just a few of the treasures they purchase. Most special of all is the jewelry box Evie chooses for the gold heart necklace Mama gave her and the bouquet of flowers Evie leaves as a surprise for Grandma. 

This was such a great story about imagination. Evie and Grandma spend Sunday evenings pretending to buy all sorts of items from stores in their neighborhood. They snip out pictures and pass Monopoly money back and forth to purchase their items. I would have EATEN THIS UP as a kid. Evie and Grandma are having such a good time flipping through the ads and cutting things out and coming up with what they’ll eat during the week or why they want certain things (a jewelry box for a special necklace). As Evie and Grandma keep adding items and visiting stores the illustrations fill up with all their finds. Each piece looks cut from an add and stuck down making the reader feel a part of the fun.

I would like to point out a couple details about the book that make it important. The first is that Evie is clearly living with her grandmother, but there is a picture of her mom on the bedside table. Her mother is in a military uniform in the picture. It’s never stated if the mother is dead or if she is deployed allowing children with parents in the service to read into it what they need to. The second detail is that it’s never said that Evie and Grandma do this because they don’t actually have the money to go shopping. This is purely a game. A game where Evie is practicing her math skills! I feel like so many of the books we have that feature African American families, especially those where the grandparent is raising the grandchild, portray them as poor. Again, kids can read into it what they need to. For my particular library population I hate that narrative that all African Americans are poor- it’s so obviously not the case and I don’t want my African American students to be uncomfortable and I don’t want my white students to internalize that. This might actually be a great conversation starter for parents and teachers if their kids or students make the assumption that Evie and her grandma are poor.

Another beautiful book to celebrate grandparents, different family structures, and creativity. You could certainly get out some play money, scissors, and ads once you’ve read the book and copy Evie and Grandma.

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18

Apr
2016

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

The State of the: Summer Reading List

On 18, Apr 2016 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

One of my goals and major projects this year has been to examine the different sections of our collection, weed and update them, ensure they are being used, and introducing more diversity into them. I’m going to start sharing the numbers and my ideas on how I’m going to improve the collections. 

The Collection

We publish a list for each grade, Kindergarten through fifth, with suggested titles for summer reading. Parents can download the list off our school website along with a reading log. While summer reading is encouraged it is not mandatory until third grade and not until fifth is there at least one required book for all students (we are in the process of hiring a new fifth grade English teacher so that may not be the case this year).

Last year I completely revamped the lists so they were much shorter than previously. They also have sections for series, single titles, and suggested authors & illustrators. For this last section I am able to look at the ethnicity of the them which I have not done for any of the other collections.

The Numbers

I ran numbers for the summer reading as a whole:




However I added them up as each individual grade so I can look more directly at each list. If you wish to see all the lists click here. Each grade would have required four charts and with five grades that seemed like a lot, so I think it would be easier to just share the numbers.

Thoughts & Concerns

I put together these lists last year and paid very close attention to diversity on them. Or I thought I did. They still don’t look good (although the higher grades are better than the lower, which isn’t saying much). In fact it looks like I paid closest attention to balancing male and female authors and main characters. I think this shows how much I’ve learned over the past year and how much more conscious I have become. To be honest, I’m embarrassed by these lists. I made sure we had a bigger mix of ethnicities, cultures and women, but I can do so much better!

The worst grades are Kindergarten and first with the best being second. That doesn’t surprise me in that I made sure to line the second grade list up with some of their curricular units and their social studies units are probably the most diverse over the course of the year.

Fortunately one of my projects over spring break is to work on these and with these numbers in hand I can do a MUCH better job of that.

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11

Apr
2016

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

The State of the: Holiday & Seasonal Collection

On 11, Apr 2016 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

One of my goals and major projects this year has been to examine the different sections of our collection, weed and update them, ensure they are being used, and introducing more diversity into them. I’m going to start sharing the numbers and my ideas on how I’m going to improve the collections. 

The Collection

We have 25 different holidays or seasons represented in our collection. There is one section for miscellaneous holidays (April Fool’s Day, Arbor Day, etc.) that have only one book about them and one small section for books that are collections of holidays- these are shelved in with our regular nonfiction.

The Numbers

Here is how the collection breaks down by holiday. There were a couple nonfiction books that collected Jewish holidays, Hindu holidays, and also National holidays. The miscellaneous holidays are days like April Fool’s, Arbor Day, Memorial Day and New Years- holidays that aren’t really religious and tend to be generically American. There were only a few so I lumped them together. Be sure to scroll through the legend to see what holidays there are- it’s a long list.

Here is a look at the percentages of nonfiction books within some of the religions. I totaled all the titles of the Christian holidays, Jewish holidays, Muslim holidays, etc. and then looked at what percentage of these are non fiction. I will talk below about why this matters.

 

Thoughts and Concerns

Here is another place we can easily support and promote diversity and it’s a collection that circulates A LOT. We always have out holiday/seasonal displays. Not surprisingly we don’t often have ones that center around Jewish (I don’t think the Hanukah books made it off the shelf this year and that was my fault and I’m very sorry) or Muslim (let’s mark Ramadan on our calendar every year so we’re sure to get those out) or Hindu (Diwali lines up with the Winter Solstice) holidays and that needs to change right away. Our school has a diverse population both in terms of race, but also religion. And once again the collection is overwhelmingly Christian (and therefore white). We need more Hindu holidays and especially Jewish. We do have a fair number of Jewish kids and how sad to see only a handful of Hanukah books next to the shelves bursting with Christmas books. I also have to say, with both Hanukah and Christmas, these are not the most important holidays in their respective religions so we should see more for the more important holidays. I personally think it would be fine to have books about Jesus, so long as we have books about Judaism and Islam and Hinduism.

I actually would like to weed out our holiday section and get rid of a few things (Christmas, I’m looking at you!), but really I have a long list of other holiday books I want to purchase to beef up the weaker sections. Thanksgiving will probably get the royal treatment this summer when I examine Native content in our collection. But really I love this collection and so do our students. It’s just a matter of making sure we’re all there in it and in roughly equal numbers.

It’s good to see these numbers too, because, unless I find a stellar Halloween book, I won’t be buying any more. Same goes for Christmas, Winter, and Valentine’s Day. We just don’t need more of those. Our shelves are bursting and there are other places we can use the money more effectively.

Now to address the nonfiction percentages. These are important to look at because they indicate how Christian- and white-centric our holiday collection is. If you are Muslim you do not need a nonfiction book about Ramadan. Sure, a Muslim kid might check one out, but as with Christians and Christmas, those kids are probably more interested in story books about their holidays. Books that don’t make them seem abnormal (or out of the norm) and needing explaining. They already know about the holiday. I will say this is going to take a bit more digging to find stories about Hindu holidays and Muslim holidays and Chinese holidays, but they are out there. I already have a list started.

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04

Apr
2016

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

The State of the: Folktale & Fairytale Collection

On 04, Apr 2016 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

One of my goals and major projects this year has been to examine the different sections of our collection, weed and update them, ensure they are being used, and introducing more diversity into them. I’m going to start sharing the numbers and my ideas on how I’m going to improve the collections. 

The Collection

This is all our 398.2s. There are a couple books that fall outside, but I didn’t worry about them too much. We have some books in our harder 4th-5th grade yellow section, but the vast majority of these books are in our easier/picture book red/blue section.

There are 412 books in the collection.

The Numbers

By and large I went with the culture the book identified with unless it was obvious that skin color and setting were just window dressing and the story remained very much the same. So for example Rachel Isadora did a version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Sure the people are black and the setting is some where in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the story is exactly the same as in the Western European tradition and quite frankly that makes it a Western European book. I’m glad to see authors and illustrators making books that don’t default white and I think that’s important, but I also think we really need to get away from an almost exclusively Western European folktale tradition. African cultures have plenty of folklore of their own that would be wonderful to draw on.

Please note that you need to scroll through the legend on the chart. The list is long.

Thoughts & Concerns

This is another collection that directly supports many of our cultural/social studies units across grades which I thought would also give us another slice to look at and see how well we incorporate diversity. It’s also an easy place to get diversity into a collection because publishers like to put these kinds of books out.

I mean I guess I can say thank goodness it’s not 50% Western European, but it sure is close. The next closest number is the number of Native American tales (many of which I think need to be weeded), but it has 100 fewer titles. That’s a lot.

As with the biography collection, many of these titles need to be weeded . They are culturally insensitive and disapproved of by the groups they say they represent (Paul Goble, I’m looking at you). Again, I am not drilling down into this collection (yet! there are plans in place to work on this over the summer) looking at who actually wrote the stories or evaluating their accuracy. This just scratches the surface of what’s here and the issues present. I may return to this series after I weed the collections over the summer and look at where they numbers stand then.

And once more, as with the other collections I’ve looked at and the library as a whole, we just need to be really intentional in what we add from here on out. Unless it’s an outstanding Western European fairy tale then we probably don’t need it. Once we weed we should by anything we can find that is high quality folklore from any other culture or tradition.

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