#486 – Taj Cleans the Garage by Renee Prewitt & Michaela Nienaber

Great review and she captures many exciting pictures too. Thank you, Suzanne!

Kid Lit Reviews

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2014

i am a mccb dayToday is Multicultural Children’s Book Day for 2014. In fact, this is the inaugural event! I heard about this at the last minute and was very lucky to be able to participate and bring everyone who reads KLR a chance to find some great multicultural children’s’ books. This week the review of Josephine will be posted. This book is from one of my favorite publishers and a sponsors of today’s event, Chronicle Books. But there are plenty reviewing Josephine today, so I am bringing you something different. I hope you enjoy it.

Taj Cleans the Garage

Taj Cleans the GarageTaj Cleans the Garage

by Renee Prewitt & Michaela Nienaber, illustrator

The Prewitt Group, LLC     August 1, 2013

978-0-9895643-0-4

Age 4 to 8     32 pages

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Back Cover

“Taj always wants new cars for his train set, so his parents encourage him to start earning the money to buy…

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50+ Kids and Me on MCB Day

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A few weeks ago, I joined a national community of bloggers–many of them authors of children’s books like me–to help celebrate January 27 as the first Multicultural Children’s Book Day. I am pleased to say that yesterday was one of the best days of my life!

I had the pleasure to meet with children in two different elementary school classes who joined me in putting together our own spin on how we would make it a memorable occasion. At University Prep Science and Math School in Detroit, Michigan, Ms. Thomas’s third grade class brought their favorite multicultural books to school and sat together in a big, wide circle of sharing. I came face to face with several smiling, eager kids, dressed in their uniform beige and blue, who introduced their favorite books, told us the author and illustrator’s names, and explained why the books were their favorites.The first names of students, as well as the names of their books, are listed at the bottom of this blog.

ImageLater that day, I visited Vandenberg World Cultures Academy in Southfield, Michigan. Ms.Lewandowski teaches an ESL class–English as a Second Language–and I met children from several countries, including Vietnam, India, Senegal, Nigeria, and of course the good ole USA. Can you imagine that? While they didn’t bring books to share, this first grade class was the perfect audience for my new children’s book, Taj Cleans the Garage. One little boy asked right away, “Is Taj African-American?” I told him yes, and that his friend was Hispanic.

Afterwards, they were delighted to tell me where they wanted the flying horse to take them. Usually when I ask this question, Grandma’s house wins, hands down, but Chucky Cheese emerged victorious yesterday! One student started a second go-round on that question, and after thinking about it, they also said they would fly to California, India, to parties and to school!

Working on this event has been an uplifting and exciting experience for me. The co-founders, Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom created this special day to draw attention to the need for publishers to publish more children’s books that reflected the country’s changing population.  They pointed out that despite census data that shows 37 percent of the US population consists of people of color, only 10 percent of children’s books published have diversity content.

It is also true that multicultural books can help to break down stereotypes and raise awareness about cultures that are different from our own. Personally, I was always on the hunt for books that reflected my children’s brown skin on the page, and drew them into the story. I wanted to help nurture their identities with characters like them who had adventures, discoveries, mysteries and just plain old fun. I also wanted them to learn to appreciate people and their differences.

Yesterday put an exclamation point on the many reasons why authors like me write books that show children whose mainstream lives merge with cultural traditions. Many kids and parents get it; I hope that many more publishers will too.

University Prep students and their books:

Taniya: Brianna, Jamica and the Dance of Spring. Juanita Havil, author; Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrator

Micah: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport; Bryan Collier, illustrator

Logan: Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco

Nevaeh: One of Three. Angela Johnson, author; David Soman, illustrator

Aliyah: Bein’ With You This Way. W. Nikola-Lisa; Michael Bryant, illustrator

Cassidy: First Bear in Africa by Santomi Khikawa and Ellis Island. Frank Brooks, author, Matt Straub, illustrator

Isaac: Egypt. Elizabeth Bert, author; Susan Manuel, illustrator

Sterling: Jalani and the Lock by Lorenzo Pace

Joaquin: Down to the Last Out, the Journal of Biddy Owens by Walter Dean Myers

Renee Prewitt is author of Taj Cleans the Garage, a story about a little boy whose chore turns into an exciting adventure, and he learns that money isn’t the only reward in life!

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Share Your Favorite Book on Multicultural Children’s Book Day

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January 27, 2014 is Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Publication of Multicultural Books Declining

It’s a pretty well known fact that books that feature diverse characters and themes have proven to tap into children’s natural curiosity and to ignite their interest in reading. So, when I first heard about Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.

The creators, Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom, want to raise awareness for books that celebrate diversity and get more of them into classrooms and libraries. They say that 37% of the US population consists of people of color, but only 10 percent of children’s books that are published have diversity content.

That’s amazing to me, especially since studies show that children are motivated to read more books when they see themselves on the page.

When they were growing up, I was always looking for good books for my children to read that nurtured their identities as African Americans. I wanted them to get excited about adventures and mysteries that boys and girls who looked like them had, not just read about what a historical figure did as a child. (We read our share of those books too). So, encouraged by friends who told me to “write one myself” I dived back into the publishing world, self publishing a multicultural book that challenged stereotypes and raised awareness about children like mine.

Taj Cleans the Garage was the result. It’s a story about a little boy whose chore turns into an exciting adventure, and teaches him that money isn’t as important as doing the right thing. Michaela Nienaber did an outstanding job as the illustrator, filling each page with exploding color and action scenes.  You’ve got to see it (and buy it) to believe it!

On January 27, I am commemorating MCBDay by reading Taj to students at two schools. The students will bring their favorite multicultural book to school and talk about why they like it. I will also ask my friends and colleagues on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin to share the name of their favorites too. You can do the same or something else to mark this day. Visit Valarie or Mia’s pages for more ideas and a great multicultural book list.

I am a big proponent of reading. It is the backstage pass to everything you want to do in life.We know that the more children read–especially about themselves–the better the odds are to close the achievement gap. With fourth grade reading scores measuring so low around the country, especially in minority communities, we can’t afford to accept the status quo about anything.

Some publishers say they don’t publish multicultural books because demand is low. Others say that the drastically changing book industry makes it too difficult to generate a return on investment. Whatever the reason, it is time for the publishing industry to catch up with reality: Content does matter. Maybe Multicultural Children’s Book Day will be the catalyst for change.

About

Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book is a best-selling children’s author of The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to Our Garden and The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She is passionate about making kid’s books come alive and is proud to be a play and reading advocate. Valarie’s mission is to inspire children, families and communities to experience and create our world together while having fun.

Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom is a Harvard grad with a love of children’s books (picture books through YA) and sneaking in teachable moments in art, science, math, foreign language and language arts. Mia is passionate about getting kids excited about reading and helping parents ensure that their child is successful at school.

Sponsors of Multicultural Children’s Book Day are Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books and Chronicle Books.

Taj Cleans the Garage by Renee Prewitt

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