The Apartheid of Children’s Literature – an article by author Christopher Myers.

The Apartheid of Children’s Literature – an article by author Christopher Myers.

The gentrification and apartheid of children’s literature are concepts I mull over often. My third graders are currently working on Compare and Contrast Essays, using Christopher Myer’s Wings, and Lesa Cline-Ransome’s Before There Was Mozart. So this article is close to my heart as well as my profession. The link above takes you to his article, featured in today’s New York Times.

Wings. Written and Illustrated by Christopher Myers

Wings. Written and Illustrated by Christopher Myers

Before There was Mozart. By Lesa and James Ransome. 2011

Before There was Mozart. By Lesa and James Ransome. 2011

Take Any Picture Book…

Take any picture book, and upon opening it, ask yourself, “What social concepts is this book imprinting on the mind?”

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Four out of seven of the above titles, I consider too oppressive to use in my elementary classroom.  The other three, I love. I won’t specify which titles, because…to each its own. I’ll give you a clue though. Two of the titles contain very potentially harmful allegories. Those two titles are: The Beeman, published by Barefoot Books, and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, published by Sandpiper, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Co.

Remember; do not judge a book by its cover.

I walk into classrooms ov…

I walk into classrooms overflowing with students who feel terribly wounded in their psyches (many of them see therapists), yet I do not think that they want therapy from me. They do want an education that is healing to the uninformed, unknowing spirit. They do want knowledge that is meaningful. They rightfully expect that my colleagues and I will not offer them information without addressing the connection between what they are learning and their overall life experiences.
This demand on the students’ part does not mean that they will always accept our guidance. This is one of the joys of education as the practice of freedom, for it allows students to assume responsibility for their choices.

– bell hooks
Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
Routledge, New York, N.Y. 1994. page 19.

Author, thinker, and professor, bell hooks wrote the above words in reference to a college classroom. She, the professor; them,  the adult students.  Her words could easily be my own, in reference to my elementary school students. When I am discouraged and energetically pushed down by the negativity, and weight of stagnant teaching practices around me, I read from bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress so I can re-center.

bell hooks (b. 1952)

(Source: Biographical Dictionary)

Turning Coal into Diamonds at the Used Book Store


I ventured to a book store that I don’t usually shop at because of it’s lack of progressive titles that suit my personal interests. However, they have a used book cellar, that I go into from time to time. After all, I have to dump books that I  wouldn’t read to my students somewhere right?                                                                                I was able to trade these culturally-expired titles:

For these culturally-relevant titles:

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou. Illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Echoes of the Elders: The Stories and Paintings of Chief Lelooska by Christine Normandin

Four bell hooks titles. Yay!

Yes. All of the above 6 titles I got with my $35.50 in store credit. I only buy from the used book section of the store, and fortunately the Brookline Booksmith Used Book Cellar had these goodies hiding away in it.   While browsing the used books I also came across two titles that I highly DON’T recommend reading to children. I did not purchase them, but I did snap photos of them with my iPad. They are below:

‘Why?’ you ask, would I not want to read a children’s book about my beloved city of Boston? because there are only white people in the illustrations. Yes, my city is 100% caucasian in this book. All the street people, store patrons, main characters, etc. I do not wish to delve into the inaccurate any longer.

I do not recommend this book simply because of the title. I personally don’t read or keep Madeline books in my classroom, because they are not relevant enough. However, this title I flat out would not read to any child, in any realm. The Gypsy people are Romanies.

After I left this store in Brookline, I headed over to More Than Words Used Books in Waltham, MA.  I respect this store, and it’s mission to support youth in the foster care system. Anyways, they take donations at this store, rather than buying second-hand books from the general public.  So, the 40 or so titles, that Brookline Booksmith did not buy from me, I donated to More Than Words. And just guess what they gave me for my generous donation? The mecca of teaching philosophy:

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

Yesssssssssssssssss.    More Than Words is also better than Brookline Booksmith’s Used Book Cellar because they give teacher discounts. Now if you’ll excuse me. I have to go get my brain on. (That’s slang for: I need to go read and expand my mind)

Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher