Teaching Saint Mary's Students About The Power of Children's Books
I've just finished a month of teaching "Race, Culture, and Power in Children's and YA Books" during Jan Term at Saint Mary's College of California. As the college-wide theme this year was Inspired (see above), I asked students to create picture books by fulfilling two requirements: (1) they were required to write fiction featuring a "hero's journey," and (2) they needed to explore an aspect of race, culture, or power.
I was delighted by their books, as well as their ability to debate issues around authenticity, banning, bowdlerization, ethnic awards, and multicultural representation on book covers. We also enjoyed eye-opening skype visits from Yolanda Leroy Scott of Charlesbridge, Renee Ting of Shen's Books, Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature, and Stacy L. Whitman of Tu Books. Thanks to all of these experts for their time and thoughtful input.
When asked about their takeaways from the class, here are a few student responses:
"I've developed a keen eye for exclusion."
"Never thought about white default before."
"Children's stories are powerful."
"Kids notice race at an early age."
"Stories featuring multicultural kids doing 'regular stuff' are empowering."
"There's power in being bicultural."
"It's hard to write a children’s story!"
Amen, right? Enjoy these photos of my beautiful students showing off their picture books: