I can’t recommend “We’ve Been Doing It Your Way Long Enough”: Choosing the Culturally Relevant Classroom highly enough. Written by two elementary teachers and a teacher-educator, this book is grounded in theory and full of invitations to self-reflect and begin or deepen the internal work necessary to become a teacher who is committed to anti-bias, anti-racist teaching. It’s also full of classroom stories and practical teaching suggestions. I loved the window into Janice and Carmen’s classrooms and marveled at the work their kindergartners and first-graders are doing. These classrooms are full of true scholars, doing original research and creating authentic products to showcase their learning and teach others. I was especially struck by how much writing is happening in these classrooms. When Janice and Carmen need a book on a subject, they simply have their young scholars research and write it! The final chapter acknowledges some of the challenges that might get in the way of culturally relevant and culturally sustaining pedagogy, namely standardization, testing, and time and energy, but never fear: these authors have words of wisdom and practical solutions for every challenge. I would say this is a must-read for K-5 teachers, and it has a lot to offer 6-12 teachers as well. I even took plenty of notes for what I might tweak or add to my college literacy courses!
I am so glad that Lucy Knisley is writing middle-grade graphic novels now! I have loved all of her books, and the highly autobiographical Stepping Stones seems like just the right book to hand to the reader who loves Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels and Jenni Holm’s Sunny series. That said, the adults in this book drove me mad. So invalidating and dismissive of the feelings and experiences of children–really to the point of gaslighting. The stepfather character is often pointlessly cruel and demeaning, and the mom always sides with him, denying Jen’s experience of reality and leaving her without support. The narrative feels very unresolved around these points, like Knisley isn’t aware of how problematic the parents’ treatment of Jen is. In the author’s note at the end, she fondly refers to her stepfather as “bossy and annoying”–but the behaviors we see in Stepping Stones go far beyond bossy and annoying. Because the behaviors never really get called out (except by another child) and because we never see the parents making any strides toward personal or emotional growth, I worry that the book normalizes what is really quite damaging.
Explorers of the Wild has been sitting on my shelf unread for years. One small silver lining of quarantine reading is that I’m searching for any and every picture book I own that I haven’t yet read because I miss picture books! This is a funny and clever story. Adults will likely see where it’s going, but it was still a treat to see how these two characters meet and become fast friends. The art pops off the page with all its colors and details.
This week, I’m planning to finish Elizabeth Acevedo’s new novel, read another professional development title, and allow myself the treat of one or two more unread picture books. What will you be reading?