MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN'S BOOK DAY
PARTICIPATIN IN CHANGE.
I knew this much when I was raising my sons in Seattle: there were not enough books about them in the bookstores. No books that depicted bilingual, bicultural children being raised by parents from mixed cultures. This made me sad. I wanted to read to them about their Mexican heritage, or about any other subject but my in mother tongue, so they could learn Spanish but there were no books available to us. So every time I went to visit my family in Veracruz, I would take an extra suitcase and would bring back as many books as I could.
Time went by, my sons grew up, got married and had children. Before I knew it, there I was, looking for the same books again, this time for my grandchildren. I discovered, to my dismay, that very little has changed. I find some books about learning Spanish in the book stores but few books in Spanish. Most titles are translations.
Last year I attended the Society of Children and Illustrators conference in Seattle. One of the presentations was about the lack of diversity in children’s literature. There was much discussion and agreement that writers and editors have a responsibility to produce more literature that reflects the diversity of our communities. I couldn’t agree more and yet, as I looked around the room, I could see that the audience was mostly composed of would-be-writers who did not represent the rich diversity of our communities. That fact alone was telling. Where were the writers who should be writing those stories?
The lack of diversity in literature was the subject of a University of Wisconsin study which confirmed that less than eight percent of children's books published in 2013 were written by or about people of color. This is at a time when almost half of American children come from a minority background. In response to the study, advocates began a movement to change the disconnect between the publishing industry and the children who read books. They organized on social media using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. The hashtag went viral. The advocates’ shared sentiment is that when children read, they should feel a validation of their existence by reading about characters who are like themselves in books that are written by authors who understand who they are.
I wanted to be part of this movement so as soon as I learned about the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (January 27th) I jumped at the opportunity to contribute as a reviewer. The mission of MCCBD is to raise awareness for children’s books that celebrate diversity AND to get more of these books into classrooms and libraries. Readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians are encouraged to follow along all book reviews, author visits, event details via hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
The first book assigned to me to review was “Amal’s Eid” by Amy Maranville, illustrated by Joshua Stevens. The publisher is Bharat Babies of Mascot Books. The book was sent to my house free of charge.
Amal is a third grader who loves playing with his little brother Youssef. In this delightful book he shares all about Eid al-Fitr, his favorite family tradition. The story is told in the fist person to make it easy for children to understand. Amal begins by explaining that Eid is always at the end of Ramadan. For all of Ramadan his family fasts during the day but on Eid they have a big feast. Amal and Youssef enjoy watching their mother and aunt in the kitchen preparing the food for the feast especially because their auntie always sneaks some cham cham behind their mother’s back. For Eid they get new clothes, salwaar kameez, a special tunic and pants. They exchange gifts, listen to music and sing. Amal’s favorite part of the holiday is dinnertime, when his grandparents come to share the feast. At night they tell wonderful stories and memories of their own first Ramadan. Amal would like to be twelve years old, so that he can fast and feel honored like the rest of the grownups. The day ends with the family sharing bowls of his grandmother’s famous gulab jamun. While they eat they talk about Ramadan and about how they can be better next year. Amal wants to do better at math and work on his temper. After cleaning the dishes they kiss and hug good night, with full bellies and happy hearts.
The story is told beautifully and the illustrations of Joshua Stevens are rich with colors and emotions. Amal is not only educating the reader about Ramadan but also about the values that his family embraces, such as being helpful, respectful, grateful and loving to other family members. The story illustrates that a gift such as a poem, or a drawing, is something to be cherished, and that the memories of our grandparents are precious.
I highly recommend that parents and educators make this title available to their little ones at home, school or the library. The book may be purchased here
I invite you to read my blog for the review of three more titles in the coming days leading to January 27th.
Sponsoring the Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016!
- Lee and Low Books
- Chronicle Books
- Capstone Young Readers T
- Tuttle Publishing
- NY Media Works, LLC/KidLit TV
- Pomelo Books
- Author Jacqueline Woodson
- Papa Lemon Books
- Goosebottom Books
- Author Gleeson Rebello
- ShoutMouse Press
- Author Mahvash Shahegh
- China Institute.org
- Live Oak Media
Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Hosts and you can view themhere