This is the third week in a series of author guest posts about diversity in children’s literature and the BookPeople Modern First Library initiative. For more about BookPeople’s Modern First Library initiative, and for more recommendations of wonderful new and classic picture books to read, visit bookpeople.com.
Previous posts in this series:
Meghan G., Kids book buyer: Introducing BookPeople’s Modern First Library
Chris Barton: A Modern First Library List
Chris Barton: Loved, valued, unique? Yes. Center of the universe? No.
Cynthia Leitich Smith: Books as mirrors
Cynthia Leitich Smith: This book is for you
Liz Garton Scanlon: Soul reflecting 101
In June, I sent my 15-year-old to China with a high school study abroad program. At the airport, I had a lump in my throat, because I’m a mom. She didn’t, because she was ready. And here’s what I absolutely believe to be true: she was ready in large part because of books.
We are a traveling family. We take road trips, we have both camping gear and passports, and we save up for big trips the way some folks save up for bedroom suites. But still, as human animals, we can only cover so much real ground, being limited by money, logistics and the time-space continuum. It’s through books that we’ve gone to ancient Greece and Egypt, to small villages in West Africa, to Holland and Poland, Russia and Germany, to Central America, the old west, the deep south. It’s through books we’ve met and cared about people so unlike ourselves in circumstance and yet so familiar in their desires, emotions, and reactions. It’s through books that the world grew much grander in possibility, but also much smaller in terms of intimacy, understanding and connection.
It is no accident that my daughter is half-way around the world this summer, truly getting to know people who don’t look like her or sound like her at all. The reason she had no lump in her throat at the airport is because, for her, there is nothing to fear in all that difference. Imagine if, as a culture or as a planet, we stopped fearing all that difference. How changed things would be . . .
ELIZABETH GARTON SCANLON is a poet, writer, and teacher. She is the author of the highly-acclaimed, Caldecott-honor picture book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Ms. Scanlon is assistant professor of creative writing at Austin Community College and is a frequent & popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two daughters.