In a recent Blog Post, I pointed- out the importance of Education in helping a Family escape from Poverty, https://thetruthoncommonsense.com/2014/02/27/it-all-starts-with-the-minimum-wage/. It it is intertwined with the Living Wage and proper nutrition in bettering oneself. Of course, there are those in Congress who seem to prefer merely stressing hard work and perseverance, while cutting Safety Net programs, in doing so. “Atta boy” just doesn’t cut it, when you are hungry, overworked, sick and tired!
This interesting Op-Ed in the NY Times, “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature” notes a factor that contributes to a major drawback in Education for Black and Hispanic Children, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/the-apartheid-of-childrens-literature.html?ref=opinion. Christopher Meyers, an author/illustrator of children’s books, is a graduate of Brown University and Black. He often speaks with Children to better understand the types of books that they like to read.
He reports that of the 3,200 children’s books that were published in 2013, only 93 were written about Black People. When he interviewed one Young Man recently, the Boy admitted that there were a lot of books that he had to choose from; however, he confided that: “…And in all of those thousands of books, I’m just not in them?” Mr. Meyers writes that major publishers stress their intentions, their commitment to diversity, imagination, multiculturalism…but, where are the books? This just smacks of the old proverb: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Racism and bigotry come in many forms–both intentional and unintentional. I also believe that this problem has economic overtones, as well. Think about it: Children in Low-Income Families generally don’t have books at home; no way of going to the library for ”Storybook Hour” and, perhaps no one at home who can even read to them–if books were available.
The other side of the economic impact in this situation is probably a cop-out by the publishers: “The Market, I am told, just doesn’t demand this kind of book…” So, here’s where the “Chicken or the Egg” revolving dilemma rings true: there is not a demand (in the marketplace) for books for Black and Brown Kids; minority kids have poor reading skills since they lack interest in reading; and that’s because they don’t see themselves, or maybe anyone they can relate to in books; and that’s because few of such books are being written with them in mind. It’s kind of like going round-and-round in a revolving door.
Christopher Meters does point-out that the Children who are successful in by-passing this road-block are the ones who use books as somewhat of a road map in determining where they want to be in life. Unfortunately, more often than not, Children of Color use books as mirrors and they just don’t see their own reflection.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. One of Mr. Meyers books, “Harlem”, might put a White Kid in somewhat of the same situation. The dialogue, food, types of people, role models (good or bad), home surroundings and many other things would be totally alien to a White Boy or Girl from, let’s say, a Middle-Class Family from the suburbs. Perhaps it’s just one of those things that Big Business needs to: “Do the Right Thing!” Let the White Kids hold the mirror up, for a change.
NOTE: When I was first learning to read in school, one of the first books, that we read aloud was, are you ready for this (?), “Little Black Sambo”. I wonder how that made the one-or-two “Colored” (in the pre-Black Era) Kids feel–reading that totally racist book, in a classroom setting.