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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21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Veronica Murff
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 20:50:31

    Renee, What a wonderful opportunity for your and a treat for the children.
    Continued best wishes. Veronica Murff

    Reply

  2. Myrtle Boyer
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 21:23:17

    Renee, I am proud of you for sharing your work with children of various ethnicities. I hope they gained as much from this experience as my grandson did when he and I read your book together. Myrtle Boyer

    Reply

  3. Rebecca Flansburg "Franticmommy"
    Jan 28, 2014 @ 22:04:46

    Thank you SO much for sharing and I am especially happy you were a part of MCCBD. 🙂

    Reply

  4. Joyce Silagy
    Jan 29, 2014 @ 01:31:56

    Thank you for reading your book to Vandenberg World Cultures Academy. You have also blessed other classrooms in our school system with readings. You do great work! Joyce Silagy, Partnerships Coordinator, Southfield Public Schools

    Reply

    • reneepr2020
      Jan 29, 2014 @ 01:49:27

      I’m having a lot of fun. I hope that more people take the time to volunteer their time to read to children in school. The kids really dig it! (And I don’t care if I’m dating myself with that one!)

      Reply

  5. Darnese Wilkinson
    Jan 29, 2014 @ 21:20:34

    Thank you so much for the time and effort that you have put forth for my daughter, Micah Wilkinson, and her classmates in Ms. Thomas’s 3rd grade class at UPSM Elementary School. Micah was extremely excited about your visit. She is still talking about! You have given her a wonderful lasting impression.

    Reply

    • reneepr2020
      Jan 30, 2014 @ 01:44:16

      It was a pleasure to meet Micah. I’m so glad she participated in MCB Day. We didn’t have much time, but maybe she can read something from her book next year. She’s a sweet little girl!

      Reply

  6. Cheryl Tomlinson, Reading Specialist
    Jan 29, 2014 @ 23:36:36

    Renee,
    You are such a gifted writer and your love and passion for children’s awareness with diversity is contagious. The 30 million word gap between various levels of children based on economic status teaches me and reinforces in me the need to shed all types of literature to all children regardless of background or culture. Thank you for always making UPSM elementary a secondary home for shedding light on literacy. We look forward to your next visit and next venture!!

    Reply

    • reneepr2020
      Jan 30, 2014 @ 01:45:38

      Thank you. It’s always a pleasure to be among such bright and promising children. I hope they appreciate all you do in helping to close the achievement gap.

      Reply

  7. Gwen Moore
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 03:14:11

    Renee – so proud to know you – you are gifted and a blessing to children in the metro Detroit are!

    Reply

  8. Gwen Moore
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 03:14:40

    Oops area!

    Reply

  9. Debra DeBose
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 14:25:33

    Renee, I am so proud of you and your efforts to enlighten the world about the many colors of our world. Can’t wait to hear about Taj’s next adventure!

    Reply

  10. ConfessionsofaGospelDJ
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 19:28:11

    I love this so much! Great work Renee!

    Reply

  11. Trackback: Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover | Early Words

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