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Racism,

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Misty Rockefeller

on 8 July 2015

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Transcript of Racism,

What should we do about racism and sexism in outdated children's literature?
To read...
Did you know?
Much of out-of-date children's literature contains negative stereotypes that are sometimes easily identified, such as in
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
, and sometimes not as easily identified, such as in
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
.

Should we allow our children to read these books? Or should we ban them and provide them with more appropriate reading material?
Racism, Sexism,Negativity,
OH MY!

Out-of-date children's literature...

By: Misty Coleman and Mary Nimmo
Does not reading books that contain racism or sexism make it go away? No, these negative stereotypes must be addressed in order for the children of our future to understand the history of our country and how to recognize these things in our world today.
Or not to read...
"These attitudes {of racism and sexism} --expressed over and over in books and in other
media--gradually distort their perceptions until stereotypes and myths about
minorities and women are accepted as reality." (Derman-Sparks)

But how do we stop this from happening? Dorman-Sparks, who works with the A.B.C Task Force, states that there are 10 simple steps for identifying these books.
10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books
for Sexism and Racism (Derman-Sparks)
1. Check for Illustrations:
Are there oversimplified generalizations?
Are they in any way demeaning to a certain race or sex?
Look for Tokenism.

2. Check the Story Line:
Is "white" behavior the only way to attain success?
How are the problems of the story resolved?
Would the story be the same if the sex roles were reversed?

3. Look at the Lifestyles:
Are minority groups depicted as different or oversimplified?

4. Weigh the Relationships Between People:
Do white males have the powerful roles?
Are minorities and women viewed as subservient?

5. Note the Heroes:
Do minority groups get to define their own heroes?
Whose interests are the heroes serving?

6. Consider the Effects on a Child's Self-Image:
Does the story affect minority and women's self-image?
Does it make them think that they can't do something?

7. Consider the Author's or Illustrator's Background:
Are they qualified to be writing on the subject of the story?
Are they part of the minority group they are writing about?


8. Check Out the Author's Perspective:
Does the perspective weaken or strengthen the value of the work?

9. Watch for Loaded Words:
Look out for offensive overtones. Words can have loaded meanings.
Do words demean or exclude women?

10. Look at the Copyright Date:
Anything before the 1970's (when sexism and racism became more recognized) may have sexist or racist undertones.
Let's Apply Some of the Strategies to Out of Date Children's Books
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

"A decade after its release, the book drew criticism from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), from children’s author Eleanor Cameron, and from others for its portrayal of the Oompa-Loompas as dark-skinned African pygmies who take their wages in the form of cacao beans and consider Wonka a benevolent master." (Rambo)

In the original manuscript of Charlie and the Chocolate factory, the oompa loompas were actually African pygmies. Not only are these characters stereotyped with their war chants and physical appearance, but they seemed to think that they have been "saved" by Willy Wonka, the rich white man. The book was republished in 1973 with the changes we all know of today. These stereotypes are typically overlooked because of the new story and the film adaptation took them into consideration.

This leaves us with a great example of what can be done with outdated children's literature. There were enough complaints that the author felt the need to make a positive change. Now, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be read without the blinding stereotypes in the story. Maybe, we could apply this strategy to more out of date children's books.


So what can parents, teachers, and librarians do about it?

We now know how we can evaluate texts for sexism and racism, but now what?
What Can Parents, Teachers, and Librarians Do?
Don't let this happen...

When a person makes a big accomplishment do they want to tell the world? Yes, they do.

Allison Samuels makes a great point stating the fact that we currently have an African American president and without teaching students about racism through literature students will not realize what an accomplishment it is for America to have an African American president. (Samuels, 2009)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
To Kill a Mockingbird
Fairy Tales
Teachers, librarians, parents...
References
“…if we fail to challenge established ways of knowing, contrast viewpoints, and broaden perspectives, we fail to do our jobs.” (Carey-Web, 2009). The most talked about issue with Huck Finn is the language. The "n word" is used over 200 times. Although the word is usually used differently today, students have heard this word. Before beginning to read the book, let the students know what to expect. Just like setting learning objectives, let them know they are going to hear some things that may upset them. Discuss when it was written and compare it today's current events. Students can be proud of the changes we have made in our country.

"...they will have learned that life is as scary, and they will be prepared to meet some of its realities.” (May, 2003).
The world we live in is a scary place. Reading books like
To Kill a Mockingbird
, at the appropriate age, depicts what a child goes through facing the "realities" of the world. Thankfully, the realities in this book are out of date, but "The children in the story seem very human; they worry about their own identification, they defy parental rules, and they cry over injustices." (May, 2003). These are things children go through today. Education is focusing more and more on real world learning and reading books like this allow students to come out of their shelter and be exposed to what their ancestors went through.
Bourke, R. T. (2008). First Graders and Fairy Tales: One Teacher's Action Research of Critical Literacy. Reading Teacher, 62(4), 304-312.

Carey-Webb, A. (1993). Racism and 'Huckleberry Finn': Censorship, Dialogue, and Change. The English Journal, (7). 22.

Derman-Sparks, L. (n.d.). TEN QUICK WAYS TO ANALYZE CHILDRENS BOOKS FOR SEXISM AND RACISM. Retrieved June 28, 2015, from http://www.teachingforchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ec_tenquickways_english.pdf

Isajlovic-Terry, N., & McKechnie, L. (. (2012). An Exploratory Study of Children's Views of Censorship. Children & Libraries: The Journal Of The Association For Library Service To Children, 10(1), 38-43.

Kidd, K. (2009). “Not Censorship but Selection”: Censorship and/as Prizing. Children's Literature In Education, 40(3), 197-216.

Kilgore, J. (2005). Little House in the Culture Wars. Vocabula Review, 7(4), 1-11.

May, Jill. "In Defense of To Kill a Mockingbird." EXPLORING Novels. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context. Web. 23 June 2015.

Pyle, W. J. (1976). Sexism in Children's Literature. Theory Into Practice, 15(2), 116.

Rambo, C. (2015). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Is Published. Salem Press Encyclopedia,

Samuels, A. (2009). Rethinking Race In the Classroom.
Newsweek
, 153(10), 52-53.

Wolf, S. (2004). Interpreting literature with children. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum.
“In the end, parents, teachers and mentors are all responsible for arming students with the right tools for the future. And when our children end up learning only half the story, no one wins.” states Allison Samuels in
Newsweek
.
Children need to know about the past and, unfortunately, many negative stereotypes are associated with the past. Literature is a way for parents and teachers to address this topic.
Teachers need to have open communication with the parents so they are aware of what their children are reading and provide options for those students whose parents are completely against the given book. Discuss these topics, how things have changed, and how they make students feel. When students have emotions behind their learning, there is real life learning taking place.
Look how far we've come...
Fairy tales are usually read to young children and portray the helpless, dependent princess being saved by the strong, confident prince. Young girls get the idea that their prince is going to come save them and they will fall in love at first sight. Kirsten Ames a student of Shelby Wolfs read a fairy tale to her class and the overall response from the class was, "...the idea of the female as an object of beauty, helpless and dependent." (Wolf, 2004, p. 169).

Let's Apply Some of the Strategies to Out of Date Children's Books
Little House on the Prairie

"In a 1998 editorial, Deborah Locke declared that "Wilder's children's books about a 'heroic' white settler family are filled with racist and absurd portrayals of Indians. Her series is utterly inappropriate for third-graders" (Kilgore).

In this article, Kilgore goes on to say that Little House on the Prairie plays a big part in the "Culture Wars". Three different states have banned the books from libraries in the past 15 years. Looking at the 10 Steps, the Ingalls are clearly the heroes of the story while they are constantly belittling and degrading the Native Americans. It does not give a completely accurate account of this time period.

Kilgore understands why people want to ban the book, but at the end of the article he states that there are ways to overcome the racial problems in the book. In the end though, do we want our children reading a book that supports such superiority?
Let's Apply Some of the Strategies to Out of Date Children's Books
Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are the perfect example of how sexism is prevalent in children's literature. In every single fairy tale, the girl is cast as beautiful and helpless. The man is the hero and always saves the day. The girl would not be able to live without him. Is this the message we want our girls to hear?

"Girls and boys need to learn through their reading that girls can be interesting people, that the character of girls in books can and should develp beyond the stereotypes so commonly found, and that girls can and should be free to make choices about themselves and their career aspirations." (Pyle)

Why should we continue to read our children fairy tales when they clearly go against the perceptions of women that we want our children to have? There are so many other amazing stories out there that put women in a positive light. These are the books we should have in the classroom and in our homes.
"Censorship is often imagined as dangerous not just to individuals but to the very enterprise of literature; anticensors bemoan the books never written thanks to the chilling power of censorship. But censorship also supports literature as an idea and practice, helping to restrict the literary field while also producing new classics, among them those banned books." (Kidd)

Talk to your kids. "The voices of children themselves are seldom heard."
Decide what is inappropriate for your family, school, or community setting.
Censor children's books as needed.
Use the 10 step evaluation to see if racism and sexism play too big of a role in the selected book.
Use resources to find books that talk discussion important issues such as racism, sexism, and classism appropriately. Use these stories to make the child aware of such issues.
The Story of Little Black Sambo
Children loved this book when it was published, but years later the book began getting criticized for racial slurs and negative illustrations. Children do not see the color or think of "Sambo" as a racial slur. Just like today, children don't look at others as a color, but they hear it from adults around them. If the story is enjoyed by children then it should stay on the shelves. Teachers are always looking for engaging stories to motivate children to read and this could be one of them.
If I Ran the Zoo
If I Ran the Zoo
, racist? If it is not
noticed by many adults, will children
notice it? The illustrations depict
African, Arabic, and Asian people in a
negative, stereotypical way. Children are innocent and enjoy the fun, silly book about a boy taking over the zoo. The book helps children to use their imagination. Children need more opportunities to do this today and hearing this book can encourage that.
Is that what we want our
children to think?

No, that is not a good message for young children, girls especially, but what if teachers have young learners dig deeper into these fairy tales?
Ryan Bourke uses the idea of critical literacy in his first grade classroom. He has his students take on different points of view to examine a story beyond "face value." Bourke states, "...their progression from readers who accepted text as it was to readers who questioned text on a regular basis." (2008). Teaching our students to examine fairy tales and compare gender roles of today to gender roles presented in fairy tales will not only help them examine books they read in the future, but teach them that someone can't believe everything they hear and everyone involved has a different perspective.
Let's Apply Some of the Strategies to Out of Date Children's Books
Tin Tin in the Congo

In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Tin Tin in the Congo. The book represents African-American people as monkeys. Do we really want our children reading books that so clearly categorize and stereotype people so poorly? The picture clearly shows this stereotype, and these are the kind of pictures that stay with children for life.

David Enright, a human rights lawyer, has played a huge role in banning the book in the UK. He states, "It is vital that our children learn and explore the grotesque history of slavery, racism and antisemitism, but in the proper context of the school curriculum."

There are so many wonderful children's books that introduce the issues of racism, colonization, and slavery. We should be using these books instead of providing our children with books that have such negative and offensive stereotypes.
Let's Apply Some of the Strategies to Out of Date Children's Books
Babar the Elephant

This story falls in the same category as Tin Tin in the Congo as it was written during the time of French colonization in Africa. Throughout the story, there are huge negative undertones towards class and race. The 'French' are considered superior to those 'living in the jungle'.

Herbert Kohl wrote an entire book on these issues. He states, "In Babar the reader learns that there are different classes of people and the Rich Lady is of the better class and that elephants are not as good as people, but might be if they imitate people”.

Is this what we want to teach our children? That being born in a superior class makes you better, and everyone else should spend their lives imitating them. No, we want our children to be the best that they can be no matter what 'class' they are a part of. These stories only reinforce classism and the terrible stereotypes that go along with it.
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