Thursday, January 25, 2018

Multicultural Children's Book Day #ReadYourWorld

Tomorrow is officially Multicultural Children's Book Day.

I was recently given the opportunity to review a children's book, and of course I jumped at the chance.

My family signed up for the We Stories program in St. Louis over a year ago, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that the experience has been life-changing. Some of it has been small things--we've consciously expanded our library to be more diverse and multicultural, and we've had open and honest (and sometimes awkward) conversations with our kids about race, color, ethnicity, religion, and injustice. Some of it has been bigger, mind-opening things, in terms of my recognition of privilege, segregation, systemic racism in my community, and a desire to organize within my community.

One of the markers of white privilege is that we can assume a book character is white unless or until we are told differently. Picture books obviously make appearances very clear from the beginning, so while I've loved and appreciated books that are specifically about complicated racial issues (books like The Story of Ruby Bridges and This is the Rope), I have come to really appreciate books where race is not necessarily central to the plot, yet the book features a child of color. I think it's important for white kids not to assume everyone in the world looks like them.

The book I was given to review is a sweet little board book called Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering. It's written by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan, and published by Charlesbridge, and it does double-duty by featuring a child of color and introducing small kids to the idea of aerospace engineering.

The title alone was a draw, and it just so happens that the baby who loves aerospace engineering has light brown skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. There's no specific discussion of race or skin color, and I don't think it's a conversation that needs to be forced, either (although if I were reading it with my older daughter, I probably would want to talk about how engineers can be men or women and can have many different colors of skin). This is a board book, so it's geared toward the three-and-under crowd, and it simply gives us the opportunity for my kids to see a person of color doing cool stuff (in this case, wondering how things fly).

As a board book, the story line is not complicated, but the illustrations are charming and the idea of a child's interest in airplanes or space ships becoming an more grown-up interest in aerospace engineering is something I'd definitely want to encourage! This would make a sweet gift at a baby shower, especially paired with a toy space ship.

Many of us live in pretty segregated societies, and our interactions with people from different races, religions, or cultures may be limited. While I do think it's important to take steps to make changes on the community level, small decisions at home matter, too. One of the decisions we've made is intentionally expanding our library to embrace diversity. I hope that some of my children's favorite books are about characters who don't look like them, but with whom they can connect in other ways.

What I've learned from We Stories is that it's not about being "colorblind." It's about acknowledging difference, correcting injustices, and celebrating diversity--which is what Multicultural Children's Book Day is all about!

Important info and resources for teachers, parents, and homeschoolers:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.
2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors
BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.
Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party!
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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