Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Always Worth Talking About

There was a great article by author Mitali Perkins posted by SLJ at the beginning of the month, called Straight Talk on Race: Challenging the Stereotypes in Children's Books.

She offers,

Here are five questions that’ll help you and your students discern messages about race in stories. Try these in the classroom, and my guess is that you may end up engaging teens who had seemed reluctant to share their literary opinions.

One caveat: it was hard to cite books written by fellow authors as examples, especially those titles that are written beautifully and are popular with young readers. But my hope is to spur the children’s book community to be more thoughtful and proactive about how and why we write, read, and talk about race. So here goes.

Her questions:

1. Are the nonwhite characters too good to be true?
2. How and why does the author define race?
3. Is the cover art true to the story?
4. Who are the change agents?
5. How is beauty defined?

None of these questions are really new--this discussion has been ongoing within the children's book world for decades--but it is always worthwhile to consider them again, perhaps with the couple of books you've read most recently in mind.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

An interesting side note that I read about this weekend is Disney's announcement of their newest "Princess" - Tiana, "a beautiful black princess" from New Orleans and the star of "The Princess and the Frog," a movie set to premiere in November. It's not Disney's first non-white Princess (Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine) but Tiana is the first black princess. And there is considerable interest in how the character is portrayed and accepted by the general public and by African Americans. It will be interesting to see how the five questions in this post will relate to this film.

More information at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/16/AR2009041603139.html