“Hearts set about finding other hearts the moment they are born, and between them, they weave nets so frightfully strong and tight that you end up bound forever in hopeless knots, even to the shadow of a beast you knew and loved long ago.”
By Jennifer Harvey
DES MOINES — Last year at this time, my 7-year-old was running around singing the praises of George Washington. I was happy to see her so engaged with what she’d learned at school. But I was dismayed that the peace- and diversity-centered curriculum she gets at her public school had left her with such a one-dimensional view of history.
I struggled with how best to respond. Then one morning, she overheard the news on our kitchen radio about a politician charged with ethics violations. “What’s that about?” she asked. I told her someone in the government had done something wrong, and she asked how an adult who was a leader could possibly do something bad.
“Unfortunately,” I responded, “a lot of our country’s leaders have done bad things.” When her eyes grew big and she said, “Like who and what did they do?” I knew I had my opportunity.
“Well,” I said, “you know how you’ve been running around here celebrating George Washington? We always talk about George Washington fighting for freedom. But George Washington also owned black people as slaves.” Her intrigue turned to horror.
Fast forward, one year. For those of us raising children, the future couldn’t be more on our minds. With the news full of reports about vandalized Jewish cemeteries and mosques on fire, police officers who terrorize and endanger black and Latino children, and engineers from India being shot while enjoying a meal after work, it’s tempting to shut off the radio, turn off the TV and cancel those news alerts on our cellphones. But it’s more critical than ever that we talk about difficult and morally complex issues with our children.
Of the many dangers this presidency poses, one of the greatest is deep damage to our children’s perceptions of race, gender and other kinds of difference. We know the youngest children internalize racist perceptions of themselves and others. As early as age 5, children recognize differential treatment and understand something about the social status of different racial groups, their own group and others. These effects are powerful in normal times. In this political climate, they’re on steroids.
Meanwhile, studies have long shown that generic messages about equality aren’t effective in countering such racial socialization. Right now, then, it’s even more urgent that parents who rely on messages like “we’re all equal” or “we’re all the same underneath our skin” in the hope of teaching our children the values of inclusion, equality and difference significantly up our game. And let’s be frank, it’s parents of white children, like myself, who tend to rely on these sincere, but ineffective, strategies.
The consequences are serious. When we don’t talk honestly with white children about racism, they become more likely to disbelieve or discount their peers when they report experiencing racism. “But we’re all equal” becomes a rote response that actually blocks white children from recognizing or taking seriously racism when they see it or hear about it. This is at best.
At worst, the consequences are akin to what happens when you breathe in polluted air. Not realizing the pollution is there doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. White children are exposed to racism daily. If we parents don’t point it out, show how it works and teach why it is false, over time our children are more likely to accept racist messages at face value. When they see racial inequality — when the only doctors or teachers they see are white, or fewer kids in accelerated classes are black, for example — they won’t blame racism. Instead, they’ll blame people of color for somehow falling short.
We have better models. Parents of black and Latino children have long made thoughtful choices about when and how to engage in difficult and nuanced discussions about difference. Studies show that such parents are two to five times more likely than whites to teach their children explicitly about race from very young ages to counter negative social messages and build a strong sense of identity.
These parents have responded to the racial epithet overheard at recess in age-appropriate ways. They’ve figured out when to have “the talk,” explaining how their children must conduct themselves around police officers. They’ve had complex discussions about equality: “We should all be equal, we all have equal worth, but we don’t all experience equality yet.” Parents of children who are not white have long contemplated how to make their kids aware of painful racial realities in the United States, while simultaneously nurturing resilience and a healthy sense of self.
Those of us who are not immigrants or Muslim and who are raising white children stand to learn much from parents like these, even as we apply the teachings differently for our particular families.
For example, I’ve tried to go beyond the abstract “be kind to everyone” to encourage my children to recognize racial meanness and understand that white kids have a particular responsibility to challenge racism. These are necessary skills when the racism emboldened by this administration shows up in the world.
One-dimensional, generic teachings are tempting. They feel easier and safer. That’s the only reason my daughter’s school would settle for partial truths about George Washington. But raising children who are resilient for justice and able to do their part to create an inclusive society takes more, especially now. And it’s not as hard as it might seem.
After I told my daughter the whole story, she asked, “If Washington held slaves, why do we celebrate him as if he was such a great man?”
What a good question — one that allowed us to engage in moral reasoning together. I asked her what she thought the reason was. In turn, I speculated that sometimes it’s hard to admit our white predecessors did bad things because it makes us feel bad. Then we talked about how we don’t have to just feel bad about the past, but instead should find ways to challenge injustice today. We talked about the importance of telling the whole truth, even when it’s hard.
It’s always risky to tell other people how to raise their children, and I don’t want to imply that I’m some kind of perfect parent. On top of that, our children and families are all different and there are many distinct ways to have conversations about race with our children. But however we talk about it, we need to talk about racism now more than ever.
I am pleased and grateful to have the opportunity to promote We’re The People – a blog devoted to diversity in children’s and young adult reading material and Full Circle Literary – “a literary agency, representing children’s books from toddler to teen, and more!” Both We’re The People and Full Circle Literary are stupendous finds that I proudly recommend to you.
We’re The People is an amazing blog that I randomly happened upon and have returned to several times to find new recommendations for books to purchase and read to my 2-1/2 year-old niece. I am at a loss for words to properly describe all the feels that came over me when I first encountered We’re The People – sheer joy, yes, but also an ache in my heart that actually hurt and brought tears to my eyes. With today’s plethora of blogs concentrating on book reviews and recommendations, the lack of diversity in the books that children are exposed to and offered in bookstores, libraries and their schools is a glaringly obvious truth. I am astonished that book publishers and my fellow #wordnerds do not more frequently, loudly, and publicly acknowledge and/or address this issue. We are failing all of our children and must work to do better.
The world we live in it anything but white or colorless – it is a smorgasbord of colors, in every imaginable hue, spanning the entire intensity and saturation gamut visible to the human eye. It is in the diversity of humans that our greatest strength and beauty lies. And yet, we provide no such written word color-wheel to our children. Not only does this greatly and negatively affect the self-image of millions of non-white children who do not see themselves as possible characters in the stories, it also reduces the ability of white children to envision the non-white children in such stories. Neither set of children grow up appreciating the beauty and wonder of the other, and, in fact, seeds of discomfort, fear, and uncertainty of the “other” are deeply planted into their hearts and minds.
I still live close to the uniquely diverse neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I was born and raised. I was a Catholic, white girl from a middle-class, single father home who spent the greater part of my first 10 years in and around the home of my babysitter, a Baptist, African-American grandmother. On any given day, Ms. Bessie nurtured, disciplined and loved a group of kids of both races and religions. She, and by default, we, never shied away from noting our differences – they were acknowledged, praised and accepted as just one of the many parts that made each of us who we were. All of us were given a true gift and we grew up not only tolerating, but sincerely loving, the “other.” Most of us remain close in our adult lives and our children know and care about one another as well. We were raised together and saw our futures together.
Please note that most of the book covers and illustrations found herein were taken from the Full Circle Literary blog.
Peter Rabbit drawing for story of Kitty-in-Boots will be on display to celebrate 150th anniversary of birth of children’s author Beatrix Potter.
The watercolour is unfamiliar, but the central figure is known to millions: a rabbit in a blue coat ferociously setting about a pair of villainous ferrets with his umbrella.
The newly discovered picture by Beatrix Potter, for a story of Kitty-in-Boots – the black cat skulking behind the tree – that she never completed, will go on display at the Victoria and Albert museum from 2 May, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Britain’s best-loved children’s authors.
The uncompleted watercolour, which is owned by a private collector and will be seen for the first time on loan to the exhibition, was identified by curator Emma Laws as a study for a project known only from draft manuscripts of the text, one finished drawing and two rough sketches.
The V&A has the largest collection of Potter material in the world, and an exhibition this summer, Beatrix Potter’s London, will bring together images, letters, sketches and her earliest published works. Although Potter is most associated with the Lake District, where she became a renowned farmer when her little books made her an independently wealthy woman, she was brought up a stone’s throw from the South Kensington museums.
She spent hours studying and drawing in the V&A and the Natural History museum collections – including minutely detailed drawings of garments in the costume gallery, which bore fruit in stories like The Tailor of Gloucester.
- The unpublished drawing of Kitty-in-Boots will be on display from 2 to 31 May, free, in Gallery 102 at the V&A. Beatrix Potter’s London will be on display from July 2016 to April 2017.
Prince William said he and his wife Kate Middleton have not told their two-year-old son Prince George that he is a member of a royal family in a new BBC interview aired on the eve of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday. “We are a normal family,” he told the BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas…
April 19, 2016
New York, New York (view release on PRWEB)
What if children’s books could help teach our kids fundamental principles for life-long success? This is the question that author, attorney, business owner and father, Brooks Olbrys asked over six years ago when he began writing The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob books for children. Inspired by his young son and encouraged by author and speaker Bob Proctor, Olbrys created a series of colorful, rhyming books that introduces children to timeless achievement principles wrapped in an oceanic “hero’s journey.” Olbrys distilled the lessons in the books from the teachings of experts on personal achievement including Bob Proctor, Earl Nightingale, Napoleon Hill, and Wallace Wattles.
In the latest book in the series, The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob – Into the Lead, Blue Ocean Bob progresses from a job as an assistant marine biologist into a new leadership role on the island and learns valuable lessons about courage, creativity, decision-making, action and leadership. After an earthquake hits, Bob faces a series of new challenges on his quest to protect the surrounding sea and its creatures and turns to Doc the turtle, Wallace the walrus and Earl the clam, for sage advice and guidance. But when his mentor, Mary Marine, is called away to a distant island, Bob puts his fears aside and steps into Mary’s shoes.
Distinguishing the series, Olbrys says, “Blue Ocean Bob books substitute worldly and aquatic challenges for evil forces or characters. Instead of facing villains or fighting battles, Bob must overcome his own fears, and the doubts of his hummingbird companion Xena, each time he confronts a new challenge.”
Fun and impactful, The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob – Into the Lead and the entire series offer:
∗ Access to fundamental achievement principles for children ages 6 to 10
∗ Engaging rhyme and colorful illustrations for the whole family to enjoy
∗ Stories that foster an appreciation for the ocean and marine life
∗ Power through a positive mindset, creative thinking and good decision-making
∗ And much more!
The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob – A Journey Begins was the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner for Juvenile Fiction and a 2013 Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year INDIEFAB Finalist. The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob – A Challenging Job is a 2015 Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year INDIEFAB Finalist and a 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist for Best Overall Design – Fiction.