Raising Star Readers is delighted to hear that Brenda Sederberg’s Reading Team has added to its membership: welcome, Baby Phoebe! Brenda is also focusing on adding something else — she is expanding on the list of her Team’s old favorites by intentionally looking for books that are diverse and inclusive, that allow her granddaughters to “see all children in the books we read.” Here’s how Brenda describes it:
Our reading team grows! Sylvie turns two, and we welcome her baby sister Phoebe to the world, and to our reading team.
Perhaps Sylvie’s favorite book among many right now is Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal. She visits her great-grandmother’s house and picks blueberries from the bushes there, “only the blue ones.”
Days after Sylvie was born I read On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier. For Phoebe’s first days I chose to read Emily Winfield Martin’s The Wonderful Things You Will Be. Sylvie, of course, listens too. Martin’s illustrations include many babies and children doing all kinds of activities, and asks “will you stand up for good and save the day?” Sylvie points to the little baby in a hooded sleeper whenever we look at the end page pictures.
This book speaks to my goal of reading books that are diverse and inclusive. As we wish for all children to see themselves in books, so I wish for Sylvie and Phoebe to see all children in the books we read.
As a Minnesotan, feeling devastated over the death of George Floyd and the racial injustices in our communities, I’m more mindful of what my granddaughters are seeing and hearing in children’s literature. As so many adults are currently focused on changing their reading lists to include more Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx authors, I am doing the same for the books Sylvie, Phoebe, and I read together. I include here some books Sylvie and I have appreciated and enjoyed since you last read about our reading team:
I think Sylvie loves the award-winning Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story because the characters are pictured eating “nummies!” I’m happy to read this story by Seminole Nation member Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Peruvian born Juana Martinez-Neal, appreciating the illustrations that include a group of culturally diverse children.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, by Margarita Engle, enchants Sylvie with brilliantly colored images of the drums, snakes, and flowers of Cuba, illustrated by Rafael López. I love that the story is “the inspiring true story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers.”
I thank Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jamie (Jimyung) Kim for Around the Table That Grandad Built. This story’s repetitive lines and pictures allows Sylvie to look at and name the sunflowers, the forks, the spoons, and the colors of the plates. We read and name the foods on the table that include tamales, samosas, rice pudding, and the word “mmmMMMMMM.” We look at the children pictured and note their skin colors and hairstyles.
Thank you to the book selectors of Chapter & Verse, a book club of which I am a member. Each month this group leads me to discover books I might not otherwise have known about, (including two of those I mentioned above). From their website:
“Chapter & Verse is a national book club for children’s literature enthusiasts in their communities who wish to discuss children’s and young adult fiction, nonfiction, picture books, and poetry.” If you’d like to form a group in your community, check it out.
Until next time, wishing you good times reading good books.
—Sylvie, Phoebe, and their Gram
Bookology is always looking for new Reading Teams to help us celebrate the joys of reading aloud together. Contact Lisa Bullard for further information about how to participate.
About Raising Star Readers
The original inspiration for this column was Marion Dane Bauer’s book The Stuff of Stars and her suggestion for using that book as an ongoing scrapbook to document reading aloud with a child. More details about that suggestion can be found on this PDF. The Stuff of Stars is illustrated by Ekua Holmes and published by Candlewick Press.