Sunday, May 1, 2016

We Need Diverse Picture Books

We Need Diverse Picture Books now, more than ever. I am making an effort to include more picture books into my fifth grade class. I love them as mentor texts, shared literary experiences, and ways to impart messages that I think are important. Here are a few that I think are worth reading:

The more Misty Copeland books, the better, in the hands of ballerinas of all races, please. What an inspiring woman she is. 

Firebird, illustrated by Christopher Myers, has Copeland in full mentorship mode: showing a young girl that she could be a successful ballerina, as well, provided she is willing to put in the hard work. She tells the young girl that she "was a dancer just like you, a dreaming shooting star of a girl with work and worlds ahead." The work part is an important message for all readers. 

Firebird has beautiful illustrations and Copeland's personal note at the end is excellent. I recommend adding this to your collection. 

Mem Fox's Whoever You Are is a book that was written for the very young, but has a message that would benefit adults, particularly the ones whose stories shout out at us from the nightly news. At a time when it feels like there is so much anger and prejudice in the world, it makes me hopeful to think that little children are getting this message. 

Like it says in the book, whoever you are, "Joys are the same, / and love is the same. / Pain is the same, / and blood is the same." Everyone's life would be a bit more peaceful if we all remembered this. 

Leslie Staub's illustrations are bright and welcoming, framed by beautiful borders that make the entire book feel like a family album. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but it was a brilliant idea, if it was. Whoever You Are will fit well in a classroom and as a bedtime story.

I love a picture book that teaches me new things about the world. That's the case with Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai. I had never heard of Maathai, who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founded the Green Belt Movement. This is a shame because she was a fascinating woman and the principles of the Green Belt Movement would be useful here in The Bahamas.

Claire Nivola's book details how Maathai returned to Kenya from university and realized that her country, once clothed in a "dress of green,"no longer had enough trees to support the people who depended on them. She began a movement of empowerment, planting and encouraging others to take care of their precious resources.

I love the message of Planting the Trees of Kenya and think it would be a great addition to a school library. When my students study biographies, I like to have many picture book biographies available, so that they learn how this genre tends to go, as well as learn about inspiring people. Maathai's story is one that I am eager to share. 

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