Reflections on Awards – diversity

images-1The youth awards are always an exciting time and yesterday I was able to sit in bed under warm covers and listen to the announcements. This is the first year of retirement that I actually didn’t have to go anywhere! So at 7:00 am central time with it 5 degrees below and wind chill of -25 outside I pulled my comforter tight around me, held my steaming hot cup of tea and quietly cheered for each winner as they were announced.

I have been reading and tracking books all year and what I noticed was more diversity rising to the top of peoples reading lists. More diversity in characters of color within the book but also in who is writing the books. Oh so slowly but it is coming, the changing of the tides. My students of color can see themselves in the characters. My students of color can see role models in the writers.

In the afternoon I was up at a north side school (think high poverty almost all students of color) helping a few teachers in the media center. As walked past the books in the fiction section I couldn’t help but think in a few years there will be a change on this shelfs. I will more easily be able to pull a book that shows a child with darker skin, a book that reflects the home life of a wider variety of children or religious views and traditions of the students. We are a diverse group of people in America and our libraries need to reflect that.

I have to say this was a happy sad moment thinking about these books

  • happy because of so many wonderful winners this year
  • sad because it has taken so long to get here ( I know there is more work to do around diversity but at least I can see change)
  • happy because students will be able to see themselves in the books they read
  • sad because I know for these students of poverty it will be awhile before the books are bought, shelved and in their hands – these are not children who have books at home, or at the car they live in or at the settler. They are dependent of what is in their school library, where budgets are tight.

For now I will remain happy that there are “changes a coming” – slow but sure. I will seek ways to get these books in students hands. Even if it is a simple as putting the list of this years winners in teachers hands and saying

“When you are looking for diverse books here are some of this years winners – you should share them with your students!”

  • Trombone Shorty
  • Voice of Freedom
  • Last Stop on Market Street
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama
  • All America Boys
  • Boy in the Black Suit
  • X: a novel
  • Don’t throw it to Mo!
  • Enchanted Air
  • Mango, Abuela, and Me
  • Funny Bones
  • My Tata’s Remedies
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom
  • Hoodoo
  • The Book Itch
  • The Smoking Mirror
  • Drum Dream Girl
  • Emmanuel’s Dream
  • Out of Darkness

Author/ Illustrator recognition:

  • Jerry Pinkey
  • Jacqueline Woodson

-and these are only the ones that made the awards!  There are so many more great books that didn’t show up in this room but are so worth reading and sharing.

What books did I miss folks?   Let’s keep the conversation going about diversity in books.

(Yes, there was diversity in the area of Special needs as well this year but for me – today – I was thinking about our racial divide and what is my part in helping to close that gap.)


About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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4 Responses to Reflections on Awards – diversity

  1. arjeha says:

    Let’s hear it for diversity. Long overdue.

  2. Linda Baie says:

    It was a pleasure to watch the awards because of those reasons, Joanne. I still need to read a few of these, but have read most, Fannie Lou Hamer’s bio is on its way from my library! You might enjoy the blog Rich In Color. There I find diverse books that otherwise I might not know.

  3. Tara Smith says:

    Yes, I think that this is what made the awards so memorable this year – diverse voices, many stories.

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