Who is missing?

I have been so excited this summer for Teacher Writes! Summer Camp!  What a wonderful opportunity to learn, share and reflect.   I have been reading daily, writing some (promised myself to do more) but there is this little voice that keeps singing softly to me.  At first I could ignore it but each day last week it got just a little louder until it was yelling at me.  It sounded just like Marvion in my classroom.  You have to understand Marvion is that student you love dearly but is the loudest student you have ever had.  He knows he should quiet down but it just is not his nature.  And I must say it is a good thing.  He wants to be heard and has fabulous things to say but his voice although loud is often missing in the larger picture of things.  I am sure that is why he is yelling in my head this summer.

My students are all students of color.  They are readers and writers seeking to find their voice through the voice of other writers.  They want to know the world through words and experiences that they are not yet having or might never get to.  They want to know that they are heard and seen.  They are sending me e-mails and google docs from the public library computers seeking names of new books.  I want those books to reflect their families and cultures, to have characters that have faces the same color as theirs, to have writers that are role models for them and look like them.

Here is where I am struggling.  Although there are great authors this summer working with us, and wonderful teachers and librarians writing with us we all look alike.  Can I just say it we are mainly a group of white people.  I like white, I am white but want so much to bring a wider variety of characters to my students next fall.  I am on the search and need your help.   I need to find culturally diversive writers and books.  I have a great collection of books on slavery and the underground railroad.  I know and love Christopher Paul Curtis (and the Mighty Miss Malone is well worth the read if you have not already done so).    BUT…

I am looking for books that show my students they are apart of todays everyday world not just history.   I want my students to see the faces of writers who come from families like theirs.   I know and share the big name writers all the time but who are the new writers that are missing from our community this summer?  How do we engage them in this shared community of readers and writers?   How do we get connected to writers for all students?   These are our future writers who are looking for friends in the writing community.

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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9 Responses to Who is missing?

  1. Terje says:

    Good questions to ask. You are a thoughtful teacher/writer. I hope that you shared the post with the writing camp community. I am sure they will have answers for you.

  2. Stacey says:

    When I led picture book units of study I used to ask my students to create (write and illustrate) books that were missing from the bookshelves in our classrooms. Of course there were the trite, “tween”-age stories, but there were definitely several that should’ve been published since they were missing from the existing cannon.

  3. Elsie says:

    You are so right. It is difficult to list quickly authors of other races and nationalities. Jaqueline Woodson, Sandra Cisneros, and Janet Wong come to my mind as wonderful writers that may match up to some of your students. If you create a list, maybe you could share it. 🙂

  4. My school has students studying individual units of study & there are special teachers who take the students on trips that further their learning about their topic. For instance, one simple trip would be to the zoo if a student is studying a certain animal. But these teachers make it a goal to find experts in any particular field that is a person with a diverse ethic background. The same goes for all of us. We try to find writers also who write today. There is a wonderful writing group in Denver called Lighthouse Writers & we ask there, we search. Perhaps if you searched writing groups, or other businesses who need to write (ad agencies, etc.) to see who are their good people that might visit your classes. A final thought-what about local colleges? Students abound who might visit & share what they’re doing-writing, art, studying science or history, etc.
    Like Elsie, if you create a list of current authors, we would all add to it. Thanks for the questions.

    • Thanks for the ideas, some I have done and I love the field trip idea. I use to do that years ago but our funds are short these days. Yes, I am going to begin that list this summer. I will keep people posted as it develops. Thanks

  5. margaretsmn says:

    I’ll take this opportunity to do a little shameless promotion. I just released a young readers or middle grade novel called Blessen. You can find her on Amazon. Blessen is a bi-racial child living with her white mother and grandfather in a small south Louisiana town. She eventually discovers the truth about her heritage. While I am white, I feel the book speaks to so many mixed race children today.
    I am also a huge fan of Christopher Paul Curtis and teach Bud, not Buddy every year. I am very excited about the new US Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey. She doesn’t write for children; however, she is one of two poets laureate with African American heritage. You could teach your students about her.

    • Thanks – I will take a look at your novel. I am always seeking characters that my students can connect to. It sounds like this might just be one. Curtis is great and I love The Mighty Miss Malone. I do not know Trethewey’s writing but will add her to my list to learn about. Thanks again.

  6. Hard to know who’s already on your list, probably you know Irene Smalls-Hector, Linda Sue Park, Mitali Perkins. Hope Anita Smith is a name to watch for, wonderful woman! Christine Taylor-Butler. . . . who else?? Here’s a website that has some names I didn’t know: http://thebrownbookshelf.com/press/

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