Race, Education and Democracy Lecture and Book Series 2013

The Race, Education and Democracy Lecture and Book Series is an annual event held at Simmons College, organized by Professor Theresa Perry for Beacon Press Books.   The lecture series, held in the spring, brings distinguished movers and shakers in the field of education, to discuss their latest book, published through Beacon Press. I first attended the series back in ’07 while an undergraduate at Simmons College. Patricia Hill Collins and Imani Perry were the speakers. The event was life changing.

The Series proceeds on the assumption that public education is at the center of American public life and that discussions about critical educational issues need to occur in the public domain and engage Americans from many different backgrounds in thoughtful and complicated conversations.

– http://www.raceandeducation.com   Home page, paragraph 4

This year’s event brought us Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, discussing the themes: Standing Up For Justice/Creating Opportunity: From the Birmingham Children’s Crusade to Creating Excellence in Math, Science and Technology. 

Every year the event is sure to have prominent scholars, passionate educators, and Beacon Press Books for sale, specifically if not solely, books written by the speaker. However, this year’s lecture series had something extra special: PICTURE BOOKS!  We have Prof. Perry to thank for that.  Most of the picture books sold out. I was able to snag two.

 Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. Published by Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2004

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison, uses photographs and text to tell its story. Morrison elicits mindfulness in the young reader, by writing through the voice of children and adolescents from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.  So important, and time saving is this book. As a teacher of young children, it takes much time to craft the right words to speak to children, regarding painful truths in our history. If I am not mindful in my word choice, then my truths may oppress, rather than empower, their young spirits.  I want to convey not only what happened, but also a perspective that can empower them and promote resilience. Morrison takes the guess-work out of choosing the right discourse.

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. Published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 2004 Pg. 28

“I don’t know. My buddies talked me into this. They said it would be fun. It’s not, but these guys are my friends and friends are more important than strangers. Even if they’re wrong. Aren’t they?”
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. Pg. 28

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. "I know the water I am drinking at  this fountain is the same as the water over there. The whites know it too. Seems foolish but it's not. It's important if you want to make a grown man feel small. It's extra work and costs more money to have two fountains when one will do, and to pretend water cares who's drinking it. But I guess some folks will do anything to make themselves feel big." pg. 52

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“I know the water I am drinking at this fountain is the same as the water over there. The whites know it too. Seems foolish but it’s not. It’s important if you want to make a grown man feel small. It’s extra work and costs more money to have two fountains when one will do, and to pretend water cares who’s drinking it. But I guess some folks will do anything to make themselves feel big.” Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison pg. 52

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. Published by Lee & Low Books, Inc. New York. 2006

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. Published by Lee & Low Books, Inc. New York. 2006

This book is so important. Its a nonfiction tale with a message that,  ‘young people can be game changers too’. At least that’s the message that I took from the book. John Lewis began his life as an organizer at a young age.  The reader follows the life of John from his elementary years through adult hood.    The illustrations portray the simplicity of John Lewis’ home and school. In contrast the authors’ words portray the protagonist as a child with layers of cognitive substance. This mesh of simplicity and substance provides young readers the opportunity to conclude that great ideas and great people can come from limited means.

Aunt Seneva started to cry, and the children began to sob too. Then Aunt Seneva gathered her courage. “Everybody hold hands!” she called, and the frightened children did as they were told…The storm didn’t last long, but John never forgot that day. – Haskins and Benson pg. 3

Illustration by Benny Andrews for John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Pg. 4

Illustration by Benny Andrews for
John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pg. 4

John realized that segregation was keeping his family from having a better life. This made him angry…One day when he was fifteen, John heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio…It was time to turn things upside down in order to set them right side up. – Haskins and Benson pg. 7

Illustration by Benny Andrews for  John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Pg. 8

Illustration by Benny Andrews for
John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pg. 8

Inspired by Dr. King, John took his first steps to protest segregation. He asked for a library card at his county public library, knowing that black people were not allowed to have cards. John was not surprised that the librarian said the library was for whites only. then he went home and wrote the library a letter of protest. – Haskin and Benson pg. 10

Illustration by Benny Andrews for John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Pg. 9

Illustration by Benny Andrews for John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pg. 9

A time line, of John Lewis’ significant life events, is provided at the end of the book, along with photographs.  Every elementary classroom should have this book. You can order it through Lee & Low, here.

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While I have your attention, I’d like to share something Dr. Hrabowski and Dean of Students at Brookline Public Schools, Dr. Adrian Mims spoke on, at the lecture:  Doing math in numbers.   What’s that mean you ask? It means that if you are a teacher of students from diverse backgrounds, then be mindful of how you group your students. If students of color are the minority, then don’t just deploy them evenly into the rest of the groups, by default. Just because they are the minority within a peer group of students, doesn’t mean that their ideas have to be the minority within their work groups as well. Let them think together. Thinking together provides affirmation, respect, and a sustainable voice. Thus, when making math groups for students, make sure that students can work in numbers, not just as the sole minority within the group.  Dr. Mims actually wrote on the benefits of grouping students together in his dissertation,  “Improving African American Achievement in Geometry Honors”.

Overall this year’s lecture gave me lots to think about. Lots to live for.

Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

p.s. during the question and answer period, someone asked Dr. Hrabowski what his favorite picture book was (it wasn’t me, really!). His answer: The Velveteen Rabbit. He said that the book’s message is deep and profound.

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My Joys and Pains at Boston’s Book Festival 2012


JOYS:

I met author and illustrator Kadir Nelson. He  spoke on a panel entitled, Why Picture Books Matter, with authors Anna Dewdney, and Harry Bliss; moderated by Leonard Marcus.   During the panel, he spoke about his uncle being one of his earliest mentors, and about being honest in your work. I took notes.

Let me transcribe the most relevant words, from my notes, for you below:

“Be present in your work because kids live in the moment, so as soon as you’re not in the present, you’re not being authentic.” – Kadir Nelson, BBF, October 27th, 2012.

“My purpose is to create a mirror for the reader to see themselves, to create a light for people to see themselves in the characters, pictures, and stories. So they resonate.” –   Kadir Nelson, BBF, October 27th, 2012.

“Be honest in yourself and in your books. Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” –  Anna Dewdney , BBF, October 27th, 2012.

On Developing Empathy in Children via picture books: “Children should see themselves, feel better about themselves, and the world they live in, feel humanized.”  –  Anna Dewdney , BBF, October 27th, 2012.

Panel information can be found here: http://bostonbookfest.org/bookfest/schedule_detail/schedule_why_picture_books_matter/

Although I have many of Kadir’s titles in my classroom, I didn’t bring any of them with me to the BBF. So of course, I had to buy two additional copies of Heart and Soul, for him to sign. I bought one for a colleague, and another for…The Picture Book Pusher.

This book is so appropriately titled. When I hold it to my chest, my heart thumps. My soul is affirmed when I read his words, because he uses the same language that I do in the classroom with my students.

    When my granddaddy took his freedom, he was a young man. – Kadir Nelson, Heart and Soul. Chapter 6. Page 47.

Oil painting by Kadir Nelson for Heart and Soul. Page 38

Although, I admit, I don’t know why the author uses the word Indian to refer to Native Americans so prevalently in this book. Perhaps I will send him a direct message on Twitter, and ask.

“About one hundred thousand Indians were either swindled out of their lands by treaties the government didn’t honor or made to leave at gunpoint and marched hundreds of miles to live out in the middle of Oklahoma. ”  – Kadir Nelson, Heart and Soul. Chapter 6. Page 48.

I also purchased Kadir’s latest book, I Have a Dream, an illustrated picture book of Dr. King’s original “I Have a Dream” speech.  The book also comes with an audio CD of Dr. King’s original speech.


Ending just last week, Kadir’s oil painted illustrations from Heart and Soul were on exhibit in the gallery at The Society of Illustrators in New York, NY.  You can read more about the exhibit, and view paintings here: http://societyillustrators.org/The-Museum/2012/Kadir-Nelson/Heart-and-Soul—The-Story-of-America-and-African-Americans.aspx

If you are not familiar with Kadir Nelson’s breath taking, soul-stimulating paintings, then you can check out his web page: http://www.kadirnelson.com/

PAINS:

Hmmm. Well, let me say that I was not expecting the kinds of pains that I encountered this past Saturday at the Boston Book Festival, in Copley Square. I have four pains actually. They are below; compliments of Barefoot Books, Inc.

            

The Terrible Chenoo, The Beeman, The Boy Who Grew Flowers, and Ruby’s Sleepover are four, recently published, picture books that I will not be using in my classroom; even though I purchased them with the expectation that they were works of accurate and relevant literature. I will blog in greater detail, regarding their lack of authenticity and mindfulness, in a separate post. I’ll give you a hint, however, as to why they don’t meet my standard – because they completely contradict the intentions of the authors mentioned above, from the Why Picture Books Matter panel.

“Be honest in yourself and in your books. Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.” –  Anna Dewdney , BBF, October 27th, 2012.

Anna Dewdney is the author of the delightful Llama Llama series.

Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher