We will get young readers interested in reading if they can relate to books and subjects. That’s why there’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day on Jan. 27, an event to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. According to the MCCBD, their “mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these books into classrooms and libraries.”
One of these books is “Our Lives Matter: The Ballou Story Project,” a collection of essays, poems and photography of 30 teenagers from Frank W. Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. The book was published last year by Shout Mouse Press, “a non-profit writing program and publishing house for unheard voices.” Shout Mouse Press works to empower writers from marginalized communities to tell their stories in their own voices and, once published, be the change they want to see in the world.
“Our Lives Matter” showcases teens of color from a variety of backgrounds, all experiencing the pains of adolescence in a world marked by inequality, civil unrest and violence. There’s Anthony Simpson converting to Islam and explaining why, using examples of how he’s reached common ground between religions. K.F. had to leave school to care for her sisters when her mother went to prison. M.H. Jordan writes a letter to the folks on the bus she felt judged her by her dress and skin. Triony Valdivia left the violence of Bolivia and will now be the first in his family to attend college.
The common thread through the book is one of hope and determination. These teenagers refuse to be judged and pigeon-holed, offering their stories to emphasize their differences, their dreams, their commitment to education and change. Through it all forms a thread of hope that the new generation will make the world a better place and fight the barriers who keep us separated.
On Jan. 27, I encourage you all — whether you’re readers, parents, teachers, caregivers or librarians — to choose a book such as “Our Lives Matter” and expose young readers to books and experiences of other cultures, languages, traditions and religions. Or maybe offer those who rarely see themselves in popular culture a chance to relate to stories by reading them diverse literature. K-8 teachers may earn a free hardcover Multicultural Children’s Book Day book donated by the Junior Library Guild and pre-screened and approved by them as well, by clicking here.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day is the project of Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.
The sponsors for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 are:
Cheré Dastugue Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.