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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Celebrating diversity and change all year long

February 24, 2014

Change is tough. Big things, little things, it’s just not easy for most of us. Nonetheless, change is inevitable. Some change we see immediately, some is more subtle. It’s easy to forget that societal norms are fluid, and that one person can effect great change if they are brave enough to stand up, stand out and work together.

And it took real bravery to change the sports world. Most kids know how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball (but if not, be sure to introduce his story; there are lots of books but Teammates tells part of it well). There are many other stories that are just as compelling.

For example, Fred Bowen introduced me to football's Jackie Robinson, Kenny Washington, in a fascinating piece in the Kids Post.

A love of jazz brought an African American pianist and a white clarinet player together in a time when it was quite uncommon. Verse and illustration blend just like two jazz musicians did in 1936. Lisa Cline-Ransome and James Ransome's Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black-and-white Jazz Band in History (Holiday) tells the story of two men from very different backgrounds who came together over their love of music.

Unfortunately, there's still a tendency to treat Black history, Hispanic Heritage, women's history — and lots of other things — as a celebration for a month, a week or a day. Let's start having these celebrations every day, throughout the year.

Our world is changing; it's increasing diverse — after all, there's a lot of truth in what Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, once said: "The only thing that is constant is change." Our children want and need to see themselves in books and to get to know those they may not have had the opportunity to meet in person. Books are one way to open the world up and bring us together.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase