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Race and Representation in Children’s Literature | Recommended Reading List

race and representation in kids books
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Today I had the pleasure of doing a Facebook Live Chat with Pam Margolis. We talked about race and representation in Children’s Literature, racist tropes, and how to seek out meaningful reading for kids.

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Pam Margolis is a creative, visionary, collaborative community leader in both the civic and academic sector. She is an Executive Master of Public Service student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. She has a BS in English Writing, a post baccalaureate in Teacher education and a Master’s in Library and Information Science. She fights systems and representations for children and people of color, children with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. Recognized activist with expertise in civic engagement and is devoted to fighting for equity, representation, justice, and liberation. She works with educators to ensure students of color are centered in the classroom through cultural competency efforts.

Black Representation Books for Kids

I think I grabbed every title that we spoke about in our chat. If not, or if you have one you’d love to see added, just email me.





Lisa Lightner: Hi and welcome. I haven’t seen you guys on a couple of weeks. We took a few weeks off from doing these chats to get everybody, you know, back to school mode, the fund that is involved there, especially for those of us doing virtual learning. after the summers series on the intersection of race and disability, I had said at the end of that series, that I was going to continue to occasionally revisit those related topics, as we go forward. So it occurred to me that even though I’ve known Pam, I think for almost 10 years from Philly, social media moms, I’ve never had her on, Pam is a librarian and she has a website and does a whole lot of other things too. But what we wanted to talk about today is brace representation in children’s literature. So Pam, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Okay. Hi everyone. My name is Pam Margolis. I blog at an unconventional librarian. I have a masters degree from Drexel in library science. I’m also a certified elementary school teacher and a certified by brand. Initially I started out wanting to be a classroom teacher, but I realized I couldn’t cut it in the classroom. So then when I decided to become a librarian, the economy burst busted broke, and there were no librarian jobs, but I still wanted to be able to marry my love of children’s books with helping children. And so that’s when my blog came about and it’s morphed over the years. And so I’m able to work with educators and parents and even therapists and counselors to, help them find books for kids. And my focus has been in bringing attention to diverse books. So kids need to see, books with characters who look like them.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: And also, for example, like white children need to read about marginalized communities, including, black and Brown, like max, and disabled children, the LGBTQ community at etc. I’ve expanded that since then, I’m working on a master’s degree from the Clinton school of public service. I’m interested in civic engagement and how to empower young children so they can take those feelings of empowerment and become fully engaged citizen. So they can become like people who protest, who vote, who make a difference in their community, because they’re going to take over eventually when we’re old, super old,

Lisa Lightner: Super old the teacher. Right.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: So that’s it, in a nutshell, I’m willing and able to talk to anyone about a book, especially a book for kids.

Lisa Lightner: Okay. so for those of you who watched the summer series on race and disability, a lot of times we talked about, we wanted like, those of us who are trying to be, and I’m understand that ally is an SS is a word that is being used, but so is co-conspirator you know, and, and becoming anti-racist. We talked about doing that deeper dive and that like blatant racism and discrimination, like, you know, that when you see it, there’s a lot of these hidden biases in books and in teachings and things that we’ve learned that we were taught in school that wasn’t necessarily incorrect, but some of it wasn’t correct, but it was certainly incomplete. and so what are some things parents are, what are some, if you’re a parent to an elementary school age child, you know, obviously some of the books that they get assigned I’ve read, and some I haven’t with, you know, short of reading, every single book, how do you know like what to look for or that there aren’t going to be these hidden biases.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: That’s a great question. So, I want to pop over to the comments and address the comment there about, books, not full of trauma. And I want to pull that into it as well. One of the things that was a trope, especially back in the seventies, when I was growing up was that, every African American person lived in the ghetto and lived in the hood. If you can think back to, like good time. So Hollywood portray that every black person lived in the ghetto and we didn’t, I lived in an apartment for sure. My apartment was more like Mary Tyler Moore or Rhoda. Okay. so you have to be careful of those implicit biases, right So when you’re looking for books, for children check out who the author is, sometimes a well meaning person

Lisa Lightner: Has

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Good intentions, but the impact is dangerous. If the person is writing a story with the exception of say a whistle for Willy and author like that, as reject Pete who was white, but he was very intentional about bringing diverse characters to life. a white author should not be writing about the experiences of a person of color. There are exceptions, of course, but generally, why should it, why should a white person be writing about the experiences of, of a race that they are not part of That should be your first clue. Your second close should be to, to ask the critical questions. Well, is this true Why are they depicted like this You should push back on this and question everything. Do, do they really live like this is this really how they behave are all African American families, single mothers do all, Hispanic, American families are all Latin Mex families. Multi-generational do they all stand in the kitchen and make tortillas with their abuela’s Is that true

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Things like that I’m sure some do, but not all. So really dig deep. And then that will also give you a wide understanding, which really helps you enjoy the book even more because then you and atomic said, Oh, well, can we really understand this look, they re this family really does make whatever’s in the kitchen with their grandparents. Just like we made pierogies with grandma and our kitchen, or we made spaghetti or whatever. Right. So you both learn, but then you can push back and say, Oh, well, you know what This book is garbage. And then you toss it out. You can, you can accept it or you can trash it.

Lisa Lightner: Okay. So using my own, I’ll use my own son as an example, and he’s 11 in sixth grade. and he really likes a lot of sports. So doesn’t, he’s not crazy about reading and that’s, it’s a constant push for him to do his reading every day. We’ve been buying him sports books. And now, since I was looking at his bookshelf in preparing for this chat with you, and I looked at all of the sports books and all of the black boys in the books, it’s this poor kid. Yes. He was a single mother. And then, Oh, he gets a football scholarship, basketball scholarship, you know, makes it to the pros, whatever it is. And now I’m like, duh, you know what I mean Like, that’s very stereotypical, but how do you, you know, again, I was just, it wasn’t malicious. It was just, Oh, I wanted to buy my kid books about sports, but they all turned out that he was interested in. Yeah, I got in, they all turned out to be this extremely stereotypical storyline.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Right. Because that’s what sells. And because sometimes that is true. Right. Right. And, and because the publishing industry is systematically white and because there’s that kernel of truth there, and they say, Oh, this sells. So then everybody buys that. Right. So what you have to do is find other stories or stop buying them. There’s a great book by Jerry crap. It’s called new kid. Have you heard of it No, I have not. So he pushes back on those stereotypes. I think they live in New York, somewhere in New York and the boy, gets a scholarship to this quality toady boarding school. And every single stereotype that you mentioned happens to him in the book, the teachers call him by the wrong name. They associate him with the wrong child. They assume that he is good at sports and he’s awful at it. He’s in the art. And he pushes back each time and his parents are really supportive and he gets in trouble for being in a fight, just every, every stereotype that you can think of. And it’s a really great way for kids of that age group to say, Hey, you can push back. You, you have a voice, this is wrong.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: So in, in the case of the sports, you’re going to have to write, that’s it, new kid you’re going to have to either not buy them right. To the publishers demand that there are different types of books, or maybe there have to be there have to be more books. I don’t know. I’m, I’m thinking of some, some authors that I love, who have written books like that. And unfortunately they do contain that, but these are written by, really good authors of color. So they seem legitimate. Right. And I can’t think of the guy’s name, but he is a retired NFL player and this one happens to be white. But, yeah. So there you go. Yeah. Yeah. He’s white. Yeah. So there’s, there’s, there’s a great series. He’s probably a little too old for your son, but Jason Reynolds, he writes a great, about kids running track, it’s called ghost.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: and then there’s companion novels to patina and then other kids on the track team, but Jason is, is, is black. And so all of the kids, they come from similar backgrounds and they’re all based on, I think kids that Jason knew growing up or something like that. So, so that’s own voices. That’s an accurate representation, right. But a white, former NFL player writing about a black kid, that’s something that you should push back on and say, no, you why you should write about what you know, which is a white kid playing football. Everybody wants to read about that, right. Because what kid doesn’t love football, white, black, Brown, whatever, right. Stay in your lane.

Lisa Lightner: so what are some other, one of our commenters, where did she go this one, Karen writes there, there needs to be a wider variety of stories and they need to not all be about antebellum American. What are some other things that perhaps you would notice, but I wouldn’t as a white parent.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Okay. Right. So we want to look for books about joy, right. Black joy. Right. I wrote down a lot of books. I’m thinking middle grade, because I didn’t really know what, what age group your readers were looking for. So, kids are tired of that. The slave story it’s important, but they just want to read a book about kids doing the same stupid things. They’re doing Ryan skateboards, getting into fights at school, eating lunch, you know, doing whatever they’re doing. So, should I type these down or send it, just say that,

Lisa Lightner: What would you prefer I mean, it doesn’t, you can say them out loud and I will include it for anyone who’s watching. Of course, all the videos are always available for replay on the Facebook page. But I also follow up with an email and a blog post and everything else. So I will check them all out. But if you want to just throw some names out there.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Sure. So Rita Williams Garcia has three books that are based in the, I guess it’s the late sixties. and, they’re about the Gaither sisters and they are called one crazy summer, PSB 11 and gone crazy in Alabama. And the mother becomes a black Panther. So the girls end up staying with the father and it’s, it’s really like historical fiction. It’s funny, but it shows a lovely family. And it’s a great story. there’s new kid by Jerry Craft. there’s a very modern story that I love by Jacqueline Woodson called Harbor me. It takes place, you know, just in the recent past it’s, four or five kids who are identified as special needs. And it’s not, it’s not really realistic, but it’s supposed to be realistic. These kids are put in this classroom on Fridays and there are lots of like do whatever they wanted, which we know would never happen.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Right. Teacher would never put a bunch of kids in a classroom by themselves, but here we are, right. The reason they’re labeled special needs is because like, like two of them are like second language learners when kids black, like something like that, one kid I think might have like a slight up autism or something like that. And the one kid gets deported. and like the one white kid gets in a fight with the, with the one black kid because he’s racist. so that’s a really, really good book for kids to be able to understand that racism can be extremely subtle and kids pick it up from their parents. Cause obviously a bunch of 10, 11 year olds, aren’t going to be racist on their own. Another book by Jacqueline Woodson is Brown girl dreaming. It’s written in burst, but it’s fabulous. It talks about the kids who moved from the South to the North and, and how they adjust.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: They become new Yorkers. And then they have to go back down South in the summer, which is fairly common. And now that they’re new Yorkers, they don’t want to kind of kowtow to the way, the southerners are. And they’re like, well, when new Yorkers, we’re not doing that old, old stuff. And that’s again, another very common feeling. can I mention a couple of Latin X folks somebody asked What about for elementary The, these are, these are elementary. These are middle grade. These are like a fifth and sixth grade book by Pam. You knows Ryan Munoz, Ryan called Manyana land. I actually happened to have that here. she’s the Latin X writer. It’s it’s, it’s a fantasy book. So I want to make sure that we include some other diverse authors. That’s really great. There’s a book that came out a couple of years ago that I really like it’s called, I drew a blank.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: It just came to me. That’s right. All of our brains are overloaded this these days. Yeah. but it’s if someone would Google it for me, it’s by, it’s about this, Chinese immigrant family and they, they work at a hotel and the little girl was like seven, eight or nine or something and she runs the front desk. And it’s a great story of how, how they kind of integrate the Chinese community, into how they, and it also really shows how, how difficult, immigration is for Chinese Americans also. also by Pam Munoz, Ryan is Esperanza rising and another book called echo, which I found was really, really good. So I think I know the answer after having done learning so much about systemic racism the summer as I have, but we’ll talk about it. Why is Jay is asking why can’t we get regular books like everyone else Why is everything so race-related with black students, it’s exhausting to hear bedtime stories about these struggles.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Why I think you touched on it 10 minutes ago when you said this, that the publishing industry is white. Are there specific publishers that folks can look for You know, cause like I know people wanting to solicit, black owned businesses and things like that. Are there black owned, publishing houses If there are, they’re probably rural small, I normally low is Asian. I’m not sure about, any large publishing houses. I really want to answer that question. Right Kelly Yang front desk. Thank you. I really want to answer that question, but I, I need more context as to, the race issue. Why does everything have to be about race Well, if you don’t see yourself in books, then, then that is the race issue. If you’re historically left out, then, then that’s the race, then that’s the race issue. Now some of these books, they just happen to

Lisa Lightner: Be stories and the kids just happened to be happened to be black. I’m bringing you a bunch that are specifically have, African American, you know, characters in them. okay. I’ll put that up there. Thank you, Karen. I mean, I don’t know he hasn’t responded yet. I know when I look at a lot of, and I’ve tried to do my research on finding stories and novels about disabilities, and a lot of the stories it’s it’s, it has a very able as tone to it. And it’s about the person is, of course, you know, they’re miraculous and they overcome this disability and, or they can walk, you know, that kind of thing. because of course a person can only ever be happy if, if they’re not disabled. you know, and it’s always this, this view of suffering and I’m not just a disabled person living, you know, living a life, and calling like what calling and says, black boys need to see stories where they’re the lead characters to build confidence. Right. Okay. Do you have any recommendations for that Yes, absolutely. bud, not buddy like Christopher Paul Curtis, new kid, but Jerry Craft. it seems to me, I did focus a little heavily on girls, by accident. there’s an author named Tori Maldonado. This might be a little old for, this might be a little older, like 12, 13, but he wrote this, secret Saturdays and height. But, that features boys, probably more why a book have male characters that are people of color.

Lisa Lightner: I’m trying to think. I any, I just think that, I don’t know why I remember this, but I distinctly remember my 10th grade American lit class and we had to pick a series of books and I, you know, I didn’t think about it at the time cause it was the mid eighties, but our, you know, it wasn’t, it was an all white school and he had James Baldwin on our list. and that was 30 years ago. That was pretty probably progressive to have

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: James Baldwin on a list like that. And you know, 30 years ago, which is not that long ago, but, right. I agree. bud, not buddy is an orphan, right I wouldn’t say it was, it’s not depressing to me, but right. I didn’t do enough to bring, boys into the picture. And, and I apologize for that. That was definitely incited by my parts are books, but there, I just didn’t re sorry about that. I can, I can research that and provide more for Lisa. when you publish that, if, if that would help bring you more boy book, Pauline has a comment, white teachers don’t understand this. So they use the classics and they don’t understand using diverse books. I mean, is that what’s going to have to take, is that we’re going to have to go back to college curriculums and encourage that as part of becoming a teacher.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Well, one of the things I’ve done at some of the teachers’ conferences that I’ve been to, and when I talk to educators is I try to get them to swap out the classics because the cost serve no purpose other than to support whiteness. because kids can’t relate to catcher in the rye anymore. Kids can’t relate to, to kill a Mockingbird anymore. You could swap out, the hate you give, if you want to teach about racism. Right. But a lot of times the problem is, the district won’t let them swap, swap that out. So they have to kinda like sneak it in because to kill a Mockingbird. Like I read that when I was a kid, my mother read it right. And kids just can’t relate to it anymore. So a lot of problem is the administrators are the ages of our parents.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: And so they need to get with the times. And also teachers bless them. They’ve been teaching something for so long because it’s comfortable. They know what they’re doing. And so we need to like teach them ways to change it up. But, I know a lot of younger teachers are really eager to switch it up and swap out these new books because at the teacher conferences I’ve been to, I’ve seen them, you know, say, I’m going to use, you know, this book I’m going to use mixed Stone’s book or something. Do you know of any graphic novels Graphic novels are not my Amelia. I can do some research, but they are, they’re big and they’re really good for especially low readers. And for, especially boys I believe

Lisa Lightner: Are really into graphic novels. Yeah. okay, so you just touched on it. So let’s, let’s just go there. you said about, you know, we talked about teaching the classics. we have a group of parents here in my district, and now this was before the pandemic. Of course. How many times are we saying that this year pre pandemic we were working on getting our school district to adopt more and more diverse curriculum. in fact that another parent and I, we were putting together, an entire curriculum for all ages on disability awareness so that everybody, you know, in April at school districts all across the nation, they get their puzzle piece pin and they wear it for April and that’s it. but we wanted to put together a whole curriculum, on the, you know, disability, history and contributions that disabled people have made so on and so forth.

Lisa Lightner: And we were going to do the same for black and Brown and Latino and, you know, lesbian, gay, you know, everyone of course pandemic has kind of distracted us. but one of the parents did bring to my attention and I had no, I mean, I honestly did not know this information, you know, eight months ago, but it was dr. Seuss month. And of course, dr. Seuss is a beloved classic author. And, I’ve had a couple of posts on my blog for a long time with sensory activities related dr. Susan. She said that, she said, Hey, did you know this about dr. Seuss And I was like, Oh my God. and no, I did not. and I, you know, I looked it up, completely changed the post and said, Hey, I’m not going to be promoting dr. Seuss anymore because of racist. The point that I’m not so eloquently making, is that when you talk about dismantling classics or nostalgia or holding onto something because of nostalgia, like that’s probably the blog posts that I’ve gotten the most pushback on ever.

Lisa Lightner: I’m not promoting dr. Seuss anymore. So, I know he is like, what is it just going to take time Is it just so, last fall I went to the Pennsylvania council of teachers of English language arts conference. And I, I did a session and I didn’t think anybody was going to show up. Right. That’s how I am. Then when I got there, my whole session was filled and I was like, yeah, it makes sense. The session I was like, okay. And they were all just like ready for my talk. And I really just could not believe that they were keen on

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: It. Right. And I kept telling them, okay, so what you’re going to have to do is if you want to read this, bring this instead. And they were like, so you mean be subversive And I said, I love it. And I said, yeah, I, I’ve got a hundred books here that I could tell you to swap out. If your administrators won’t let you read the hate you give this book is just as good, you know, and covers the same topics, but it’s under the radar. You know And I just, I could not believe how many teachers were so keen on getting rid of the classics, but we’re hitting that ceiling. And then I said, okay, I have this list. If you’re interested, you know, enter your email address here. And I send you the list. It’s whatever, you know, I found out a couple of people are gonna sign up and I put my head down to do something.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: I look up, everybody is signed up for the list, right. So I just go here, you know And then there’s a group of people like Camaro. I’m like, what are you talking about And they’re like, can you come to our school and talk to our administrators I was like, we need somebody to back us up. So apparently there’s interest, but administrators just don’t want to let go of the classics because to kill a Mockingbird is so good. But to kill a Mockingbird centers, the white man, it doesn’t center the problem of the black man. Right. But books like dear Martin, or, the hate you give are really what kids are interested in. It’s about the struggle from the point of view of a person of color who is 16 or 17, which is what your students are. They have cell phones, they know how to protest. They want action and they want it. Now there’s gun violence. There’s every other kind of violence in the world. They’re experiencing it. They’re seeing it on television and they want it to stop. Right. They can’t relate to Backwoods lynchings and all that other stuff from 1947.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Right. And the teachers know that because the teachers are in the classrooms, looking at the eyes of these kids, whose eyes are rolling in the back of their head, they’re sighing, they’re doing whatever. And they want to get through to these kids.

Lisa Lightner: It’s, it’s funny. Cause I, I just had a Facebook memory come up and Pam and I both live near Philadelphia. And have you been in the national constitution center You’ve been there, right Yeah. Yeah. They have these historical displays and one of the historical displays is a mannequin of a person wearing a clan costume, the, the white hood and everything. Anyway, I had a picture of it because my then preschooler, because the arms were out and you know, it had that pointed head. He said, look, mom, it’s Patrick from SpongeBob. Cause that’s when he thought it was. Cause it kinda looks like a starfish, but in his preschool, mine, I think he was four or five at the time. He said, look, it’s patent, but it doesn’t, it’s not relatable. Like if you’re going to you can’t really, I don’t want to say you shouldn’t talk about the clan, but, but you can’t really use the clan as a, these teachable moments anymore. Cause kids don’t even know what it is.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Cause like I was, I experienced, cross burnings as a, as a child in high school. Right. I don’t think kids today or at least in urban areas see cross burnings anymore. But I know for a fact, kids in the Philadelphia area are very familiar with shootings, right So maybe you need to consider, you know, your community. If the KKK is a problem in rural areas, then maybe to kill a Mockingbird might be appropriate as a supportive text. Right. You can repeat the hate you give or what other book, whatever other book is relevant to your students. But then say here, read page 47 to 62 of this page to get a feel for what it was like back in 1945, right. To kill a Mockingbird. Doesn’t isn’t the be all and end all of books. Trust me.

Lisa Lightner: No, it’s not. no. And I remember we also had to, and again, it was the mid eighties when I was in high school, one of those days, but for the holiday when they just sit in front of a movie, but we sat all day and watched, gone with the wind because we were learning about, Oh, you know, America and history and they thought that was appropriate.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Right. And

Lisa Lightner: You know, now, now when you talk about taking that away, they say, how can you, you know, how dare you take away that movie It’s such a classic and it’s, I don’t know. It just doesn’t make sense to me to hang onto something. Just furnace nostalgia, just because, just because like nostalgia isn’t really, I don’t get it. Hang on to a class that is offensive. A third of our population. Right. let’s see, what other questions do we have let’s see, just mercy, someone suggested, and again, I will recap this and send it out. but it will be on the Facebook page. I don’t know what mood you don’t know what movie you’re talking about. You said you couldn’t finish it. I’m assuming you mean to kill a Mockingbird Maybe not. no ashes. Oh, okay. and no ashes in the fire. So we’ll add that to the list. I haven’t heard of that one. I haven’t either. We’ll look it up. I’ll look it up. sorry, I’m just reading through the seats or any questions that I missed. Is there any, did you want to talk about any books about kids with disabilities

Lisa Lightner: You know, I, I have compiled lists and I have people actually send me lists all the time. Would this be good for your audience You know, would you please share this The problem I run into now is that I have to like almost, and that’s what I’m really struggling with is like I homes have to vet every single book because there can be these hidden biases and there can be able as a minute. And well-intended people say, Oh, I’m going to compile a list about disabled kids. And it’s, you know, it’s just chock full of liberalism and feeling sorry for the person and, and you know, right. Cause that’s not necessarily my area of expertise. Yeah. but I’ve, there’s the autistic self-advocacy network ASA an, they publish a couple of good lists and there are, a lot of first person, disability, blogs out there that I read and they, they tend to publish decent lists.

Lisa Lightner: And I, I, you know, I trust their word and their recommendations. because of course the, the kid with autism is always a savant and just has no friends and doesn’t want to have any friends. And, you know, it’s, it’s the same old, same old. Right. So I’m just like, all right, anything else you would like to add I didn’t have any other recommendations. I did have a couple of nonfiction books I wanted to add in case. I do know some kids don’t read fiction, so there, I thought I had them here with me, but I guess I misplaced them. So there’s one book called damp racism. Anti-racism I think I

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Messed up the title. Oh, here it is. Stamped racism. Anti-racism and you it’s by Jason Reynolds and Ebro X candy. This is like the child version of Hebrew, Mex candies, adults book of a similar name. This is, in my opinion, much more palatable than the adult book. So if you’ve been wanting to read either Mexican, these adults book, snag this instead, no shame, go get this and read it. Jason Reynolds is a great writer as well, and he takes dr. Kennedy’s stuff and just makes it much easier to swallow. Kind of like, you know, Mary Poppins, like a spoonful of sugar helps them managing it on snag lists. It’s great. And then another book that is also her kids, a couple of years old called dark sky rising reconstruction. And the Dawn of Jim crows is also, NonFiction’s written my, hitting him, those skates and telling a Bolton for kids who like nonfiction could read. It’s not this big, this was just a chat book.

Lisa Lightner: let’s see, Jay says, well, these are for white kids to read. Why do black have to always be reminded that they are different I think earlier in the chat, Pam did list several books where black characters are featured prominently and positively, so right. You did, right. Yeah. Okay.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: And there are some black kids who don’t know their history and who want to learn more. So these books are for everybody, you don’t necessarily have to be for white kids or for everybody. Right.

Lisa Lightner: But yes. I did want to bring some attention because you know, white, I’ve been, I’ve just been hearing all summer, the white people need to listen and learn and about the black experience from black people. and so that was kind of the focus of having all these chats with so that white people who want to become better and become better allies or co-conspirators can say, you know, educate yourself. Cause I, you know, I, like I said, I was brought up with all this stuff. I was brought up watching, gone with the wind and to kill a Mockingbird and everything else. And that gives you these biases that you, you know, even when you think in your heart, you think your heart is right. you still have biases that you have to work on dismantling, I guess.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Right. And this, empty to Austin that have to be trauma informed. Right. one of the things I talk to educators about is cultural competency, because it’s one thing to teach a book, but you have to teach it the right way. If you don’t understand the culture of the community of the children. Yeah. You could really do some harm if you just say, and this black kid got shot because he was at the street at the wrong time, you’re, you’re definitely going to harm. But if you teach it and you understand the reason that children are in the street, it’s because they’re out of the da, then you’ll be able to teach it what I want. Cause it empathically. Is that the one I want to impact quickly, not statically. Yeah. So right. You don’t, you don’t want to traumatize the children anymore because life is hard enough for children of color. They come to school, it should be a safe place. They should be centered. Right. They’re getting bullied and oppressed from every different direction. The last thing they need is for the teacher to read a book and let somebody use the N word or let the teacher say something off. And the kid is traumatized all day, your wife, the kid needs to feel safe, at least in school, if no place else, cause that’s a long time to feel unsafe. Right.

Lisa Lightner: So it’s interesting that she, you and she brought that up. I just saw it on something. Cause of course, because of what I do, I follow a ton of educational agencies and websites and nonprofits and all that. one of the groups that I follow, they just posted this week that in Pennsylvania half and that’s, and we have 500 school districts in this state, we have like 500 districts and about a hundred, charters, half do not have any teachers of color on staff. So, that’s a lot obviously, but so should white teachers who are working in districts with only all other white teachers, which is up, you know, half the districts in the state, should they be teaching this material or, I mean,

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Absolutely should be because the, all the students need to see the beautiful, uplifting stories about people of color. However they need to teach it culturally without trauma, for example, have you read beloved or has any, or have any of your read So I always like to use that example because there’s the part, I don’t want to ruin it for you, but there’s the part about the baby, right And if you don’t understand the history of slavery, you’re not going to understand why she kills that baby. Right. And so if you’re teaching, they love it. And you’re like, Oh, I’m like, she killed that baby. That was like really wrong. And she shouldn’t have done that. And, and you’re, and you’re teaching it, you know, and the kids are gonna pick up on your disdain when, if you understand, because my fifth great grandmother was born a slave.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Right So that means my family were descendants of slaves who I am, because right. So if you understand that in, she didn’t want that for her offspring. And she thought it was better, that that child be dead than to live that life. That’s what she did not saying it was right. But you understand it in a whole different way. So then when you come to teach it, you have this sense of understanding the sense of this punch in the gut. And you’ll teach it so much differently than she kept that baby. And here’s the baby and that’s the ghost. And now she’s growing up in whatever, whatever, right So if you can just, it’s your approach, I guess, is what I’m saying. So you have to teach stories by people of color, but you really have to learn to come at it from a different way.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: And for Pete’s sake, learn how to pronounce people’s names. If you can watch what’s that show that was real popular for years with all those people and those made up kingdoms, all those white people that made up kingdom by George RR, Martin. Oh, I never watched that. but you know which I’m talking about. Yeah. If you can learn to pronounce all of those names, you can learn to pronounce names of people from India, from Africa. How many kids walking around know everybody’s name on black Panther. Everybody can pronounce the challah. Right. Everybody can pronounce a coy. Right Right. So what I’m saying, learn how to pronounce Milan, learn how to pronounce everybody’s name. Just take and try. If you can pronounce all those names in game of Thrones, you can pronounce Schakowsky. You can do it. Yeah. That’s what cultural competency is. Understand why that baby is dead. Not, not just, Oh, she killed that baby. Yeah. Okay. So for the teachers who are watching and listening, what, where could they start As they say, you know what I really want to start to, you know, maybe approach my administration or my fellow teachers, or, you know, change things up in my classroom and the things that I do have the power to change. Where should they start

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: That’s a good question. I would say if you have a buddy, get a buddy, because there’s there’s power in numbers, right. Maybe you have a buddy and you can say, Hey, look, let’s try this together. Let’s, you know, let’s lean on each other. Let’s let’s teach. And I hate, you know, using the same. Okay. Let me try another book. How about, do you know the book Derrius is not okay. There’s a book. Various is not okay. he’s Persian and it talks a lot about mental health, right It’s an excellent book. It could be used for so many different classes. Right. Let’s just say, we’re going to introduce this book. Okay. And we’re going to talk about mental health issues in men and the male community. Well then I’ll talk about mental health issues in the Asian community. We want to talk about the economics of, of mental health.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: We’re going to diagram this book, whatever you do in the English language classes. Right. It has a buddy, you know, we’re gonna look like this. And then if it works, ask the kids, Hey, are you connecting with this book And if the kids say, yeah, yeah, mrs. Margolis, we really, you know what really fell in this book Would you like more books like this Cause they’ll tell you. Right. You’ll know right away the body language, if they’re rolling their eyes or whatever, right. You read one book or you could just ask them, okay, I read this book are I’m interested in this You know, it’s called, dear Martin, it’s about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Would you all be interested in it Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I heard about that. Yeah. I can read that. Yeah. But get a buddy, because that way you can bounce ideas off of each other. And then sometimes, you know, your buddy will tell you whether the idea is stupid or whether it’s a great idea because it’s scary trying something new. I’ve talked to my teacher friends and I’ve told them things in like, Oh, I couldn’t do that.

Speaker 4: Yeah.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Yeah. And then we do, we ask teachers to do too much. We, we do. And yeah, it is. you know, when I’m about your age, when we were in school, I don’t know about you and my school. Like, well, you didn’t even have black history month. Like we didn’t celebrate or acknowledge it or anything. and now we do in the schools, but I think it needs to go beyond like, here’s your, obligatory list of black inventors and worksheet and me now we have to get past that. I mean it’s and move on, you know, move on. It’s it’s it’s time to move on. It’s you know, it should just be infused into every day. Here’s a book you’re reading.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian: Get on the cover as, but enjoy it. Exactly. Or you go and it doesn’t always have to be a trauma happens to be black. There you go. Isn’t that a great story. Can you relate to him He’s having girl problems. How about that Hmm. Yeah. Yep. So, all right. Any final words, where can people find you again You said at the beginning. Okay. So yeah. I have a blog and unconventional librarian.com. I am on Twitter a lot. I’m at Pam loves books. I’m on Instagram. A lot. Pam loves books. Hit me up. Anytime, if you want to talk, if you want to argue about books, if you want to share a book with me and I did do, I did see some comments and I’m not going to scroll through all now, but there were some comments that said I, there was a fellow librarian who said she wants to connect with you a couple others. So I will include those social media accounts when I send out the list. But thank you so much for being here. I’m happy to connect with them. I love to talk books. That’s good. My name is Pamela books teachers. Okay. All right. Thank you so much for tuning in everybody.

race and representation in kids books
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