Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Standing strong together -- using books to connect us.

I am deeply saddened by the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend. It anguishes me that people in our country are filled with hatred, resort to violence to assert their views, and openly carry military weapons.

As I struggle with these feelings, I recall the words of Javaka Steptoe as he accepted the 2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for his masterful picture book Radiant Child. Javaka reflected on how our country and our communities are changing and the opportunities this presents.
"Today that block on Monroe Street looks different than when my father lived there. The faces are not all black. In fact, spaces all around the country are becoming more diverse. The landscape of America is not the same as it was, and we are at an impasse. Do we hold on to what we were? Or do we become what we can be? ...

"Against all odds, we have made something of this place, and if we can respect one another’s truths, if we can see outside of ourselves, we can be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Representing all aspects of our society is not about fulfilling the selfish desires of a small special-interest group. It is about supplying power to the people of America."
Stories have the power to connect us, helping us "see outside of ourselves," as Javaka said. Reading about other people helps us respect each other's journeys and experiences.

As parents, librarians and teachers, we must actively choose to share with our children books that help them see outside of their own communities. And we must also help all of our children be able to see books that reflect their own experiences. As Kwame Alexander wrote on Twitter this week,
"Resist/Speak up. Teach yr kids same. The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child. Peace."
And so I focus on books that help us see each other more fully, that foster the imagination, that make kids want to read more. Because this is how I can help actively make the world a better place.

Thank you to all of the artists and authors who help me in this journey, who share their stories to help us all connect. Thank you to all of the teachers and librarians, parents and friends who help me discover more books to share. And especially, thank you to all of the students who share their stories, their reading lives with me. You all give so much of yourselves.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. I believe that too--books connect us. They connect us to people who seem, on the outside, different. They admit the differences but mine for the connections. They help build empathy. I'm glad to have a piece of my life in the world of books right now.

  2. Thank you, Annette -- I really appreciate your note.