I don’t know where to start. I’ve spent the past few days silent. Listening. Learning. Reading. Watching. Trying to make sense of what is happening in the world; a world that is in the midst of grappling with a global pandemic, and now also dealing with collective grief that has turned to rage and violence. I haven’t added my voice into the mix because, quite honestly, the world is already too familiar with my perspective as a white, cis, hetero, woman. At the same time, I do not want my silence to imply complicity and indifference to what others are feeling. I’ve been watching, listening and hurting.
Amidst the flood of content on the internet and social media, I came across this post from Sesame Street.
It reminded me of afternoons spent at my grandma’s house growing up. Sesame Street was, most likely, where I first saw and heard people who didn’t look like me. Their goal of promoting understanding and creating a world that is “smarter, stronger, and kinder” helped shape my own understanding of community and diversity.
On those same afternoons, we would walk to the local public library. It was part of our community. I had the privilege to be able to not only access that library and its resources, but to find shelves of books with characters who looked like me once we arrived. I am grateful for all of the adults in my life who made sure that the stories I read represented diverse perspectives, and featured characters who didn’t necessarily look like me or share my experience.
There is power in the knowledge and storytelling found in books. Whenever I needed to grasp a big idea or wanted to understand something better, I turned to books. They offered me language and vocabulary. They offered new viewpoints, and most importantly, a place to begin.
As adults, particularly those of us in the roles of teachers and leaders, we need to pause, but not remain silent forever; as our silence ultimately will signal complicity. We need to be intentional in our words and actions as we continue to teach our students to be kind, empathetic and compassionate. Similar to Sesame Street, we are working to “promote understanding and create a world that is smarter, stronger and kinder” one student at a time.
As a teacher and librarian, I certainly don’t have answers, but I know where I’m going to start. I recognize no list of books will ever be fully comprehensive. Particularly for children, the stories in these lists will need to be paired with others so that they can see similarities, not just differences, between themselves and children of all races and cultures.
However, I hope that the lists of books curated below will help us to start conversations with people in our lives. I truly believe that compassion and love speak louder than hate. I hope that the stories in these books, like the ones told on Sesame Street, help us to gain a deeper understanding and provide us with language so that together we can use our voices to become smarter, stronger, and kinder.
Let’s start a conversation.