Monday, February 17, 2020

#classroombookaday & Responsibility in Book Selection

Due to some disheartening comments in the #classroombookaday Facebook group related to sharing picture books with trans characters & pushback on racism with anthropomorphic monkeys, I felt the need to clarify a few things about my stance on book selection related to this initiative. I shared screenshots on Twitter and was asked to make it a blog post also for ease of access. Stick with me - this is long, but important. 

I'd like to clarify some things about my goals and intentions for this group. As #classroombookaday has grown and evolved over the past five years, so have I as an educator and human. Some of you are very new to this group. Perhaps you were directed here as a place to get good picture book recommendations. And that's fair, but first and foremost this is a group for people choosing to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year. With that comes a responsibility to our students. I look back at my first year's display and see the problematic choices I made in the books I chose. Now that I know better than to have mostly white authors, I am trying to do better (shoutout to Maya Angelou!).
Identities are not "controversial topics" 
As creator of this group & #classroombookaday, I want to reply to a comment that "This FB page is supposed to be about using books in the classroom, not to argue about controversial topics.  That does not help anybody and nobody wins." I unequivocally stand by not debating the humanity of my students & the critical need to support their lived experiences & identities through the books we share for #classroombookaday read alouds. Identities are not "controversial topics" - they are lived experiences and, especially as educators, students who live them, live with them, know them, or don't know them deserve our love and respect. Even better if we can facilitate that through the books we choose to share in read alouds. 

As I work on myself and learn more perspectives about being an anti-racist, anti-bias teacher, I reflect on how my choices in books for #classroombookaday can support or work against that goal. I reflect on the overt & subtle harm that can be caused to the children in front of me each day with the choices I make. Because this is about the kids. If my goal is to build community, support student identity and lived experiences, and help kids develop empathy, then my choices need to reflect that purpose. I cannot ignore what BIPOC scholars share about problematic content and ideas in picture books. I understand that we can't be limited by a single story and that no one person represents the feelings of all, but if even one BIPOC person who has done work around kidlit points out harmful content, I need to consider it and learn to look at books through a more critical lens. I am constantly learning and still miss things all the time. I make mistakes when analyzing books, but I listen to the critiques, learn from them, and move on to the next book with a deeper understanding. 
I reflect on the overt & subtle harm that can be caused to the children in front of me each day with the choices I make. Because this is about the kids. 
If you have seen me present in the last few years, you know I don't do so without a section on critical analysis and inclusive book selection. Here's the thing: when we have 180 chances to impact children's understanding and empathy and self-image and global perspective, we need to take every chance we can to support them as accepting human beings who will add to our society. Choosing not to share certain identities is not supporting the goal of growing community. ALL of these conversations are important within the context of participating in #classroombookaday! And whether people speak up or not, I know that by watching these convos perspectives are changed and stances toward the need for diversity enhanced and clarified. So the educators in this group are helped, and our students are the ones who win by being treated as valued members of our society and classrooms who can understand that not everyone is like them and be more accepting of that.

To be clear: There is no place for bigoted or hateful speech or actions or statements within this group, and I will moderate accordingly. There is a place for thoughtful discussion and sharing of ideas around books that support anti-bias, anti-racist teaching and critical selection of inclusive books. What you choose to do with that information and those conversations in your own classroom and choices of books is up to you. But please don't discount a book because you feel a marginalized identity is not appropriate for elementary school children - it is and they are. 
There is no agree to disagree on bigoted statements or erasing marginalized groups or perpetuating negative stereotypes or causing harm to children. 
As Admin of this group, and as stated in the group guidelines, it is my right to choose not to approve a post that does not align with these purposes, to shut down commenting, or hide comments that cross into hate speech. If a book has been critiqued as problematic, that discussion needs to happen, but implicit support is inferred by an uncritical post with a picture. When I first started on this learning, I often got defensive about being pushed out of my comfort zone and having my privilege pointed out to me and held onto ideas and books that I shouldn't have, but that was then also actively choosing to harm kids. Something we all need to reflect on. This isn't about agreeing with everything I think, but about supporting inclusiveness, students as multi-faceted human beings, and doing right by kids living in this society. There is no agree to disagree on bigoted statements or erasing marginalized groups or perpetuating negative stereotypes or causing harm to children. And please remember that comments made toward identities can be hurtful and harmful, and you don't know the identities or lived experiences of those in this group either.

Thank you for being part of this, supporting #classroombookaday, and striving to do right by ALL kids. 💕

You might also find this post sharing a twitter thread helpful: 12 Steps to Edugrowth When Called In

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on My Papi Has a Motorcycle with Author Isabel Quintero & Illustrator Zeke Peña

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
#cbadspotlight pick 
My Papi Has a Motorcycle,
with author Isabel Quintero & illustrator Zeke Peña 
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A celebration of the love between a father and daughter, and of a vibrant immigrant neighborhood, by an award-winning author and illustrator duo.

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she's always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.

But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl's love letter to her hardworking dad and to memories of home that we hold close in the midst of change.

Thank you, Isabel & Zeke, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight author & illustrator conversation today!

Monday, February 3, 2020

February #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on The Proudest Blue with Author S.K. Ali

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
S.K. Ali,
author of #cbadspotlight pick 
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A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school--and two sisters on one's first day of hijab--by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad.

With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It's the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it's her older sister Asiya's first day of hijab--a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.

Paired with Hatem Aly's beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.

Thank you, S.K., for joining me for a #cbadspotlight interview today!

Friday, January 31, 2020

January #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on A Big Bed for Little Snow with Author/Illustrator Grace Lin

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
Grace Lin,
author-illustrator of #cbadspotlight pick 
and also The Ugly Vegetables, Dim Sum for Everyone!, Bringing in the New Year,
& Caldecott Honor book A Big Mooncake for Little Star

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A companion to the Caldecott Honor book A Big Mooncake for Little Star!

A heartwarming and tender picture book introducing readers to their first snow, from award-winning, bestselling author-illustrator Grace Lin.

When it was quiet, Little Snow grinned and then jumped, jumped, jumped! 
Little Snow loves the new big, soft bed Mommy made him for the long, cold winter nights. But Mommy says this bed is for sleeping, not jumping! What happens when he can't resist jump, jump, jumping on his new fluffy, bouncy bed?
Bestselling and award-winning author Grace Lin artfully introduces young readers to their first snow through striking illustrations and heartwarming moments. 

Thank you, Grace, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight video today!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

January #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on I Will Be Fierce! with Author Bea Birdsong

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
Bea Birdsong,
author of
a January #cbadspotlight pick to set the tone for a new year.
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It’s a brand-new day, and a young girl decides to take on the world like a brave explorer heading off on an epic fairytale quest. From home to school and back again, our hero conquers the Mountain of Knowledge (the library), forges new bridges (friendships), and leads the victorious charge home on her steed (the school bus).

This story is a powerful declaration about courage, confidence, kindness, and finding the extraordinary in everyday moments.

Thank you, Bea, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight interview today!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

January #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on When Aidan Became a Brother with Author Kyle Lukoff

Today I'm shining the spotlight on 
Kyle Lukoff,
author of #cbadspotlight pick 
When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl's room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn't fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. Then Mom and Dad announce that they're going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning--from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does "making things right" actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience.

Thank you, Kyle, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight interview today!

Monday, January 13, 2020

#classroombookaday Recommendations: Perseverance

Each month of this school year I am getting a chance to share a themed list of 20 recommended picture book titles for #classroombookaday read alouds in partnership with Follett Classroom. Each booklist is accompanied by a blog post explaining more in depth my thoughts in creating the list and why I chose those specific titles.

One of the great parts of this partnership is that my recommendation lists are also being saved in Titlewave which allows them to be easily found and shared with librarians for purchasing for school libraries!

My January 2020 list is picture books good for discussing perseverance as we head into a new year. Be sure to check out my complete blog post & booklist, and find my others at