Revolutionary Read of the Month | October, 2018

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

As you may have heard, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying is something we take very seriously here at Collage Colorado, and so we thought it was appropriate that this month we feature a book about feeling different, how scary that can be, and why maybe it doesn’t have to be so scary after all.

Jacqueline Woodson’s new children’s book The Day You Begin is phenomenal – a book that manages to really capture the feeling of realizing that you’re different from your peers, and that they don’t always see that as a good thing. The books is beautifully illustrated, with rich artwork accentuating numerous – anxious – perspectives. Fear not, though, as Woodson makes sure to end on a high note. Pick it up and check for yourself!

The Details:


#WhenIBegan

See our dedicated #WhenIBegan page for more details about the Instagram campaign inspired by this book!

Consent is for Everyone

Let’s Talk About Consent…

So, I suppose we were always going to get to this post eventually, because consent is a major part of being part of a home, classroom, or community. It’s something really basic to being a person who interacts with other people.

This post is happening today, though, because the topic has become so utterly and painfully immediate that it clearly needs to be addressed; from the #MeToo movement, to accusations against numerous respected figures, to the Kavanaugh hearings… our own President has even mocked assaults against women. Our children and students hear these things on the radio and online, see them on TV, and know we’re talking about the issue. If we are, so are they, and that makes this an incredibly important time to have this conversation with them.

[RESOURCES FOR DISCUSSING CONSENT ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!]

So, What Can I Do?

This is obviously a really serious and delicate issue, and we understand that it can be nerve wracking to think about bringing this stuff up, but evidence shows that beginning discussions about consent at a young age keeps kids safer, and eases the more mature conversations later on. Besides, there are lots of great tools that can help – the conversation is important, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating!

Before I start, let me explain that we at Collage Colorado are not therapists, and that these suggestions come from our combined years of experience teaching and parenting. You are welcome to disagree about anything we say here, and we welcome discussion! That only helps everybody keep everyone safer, and more respected.

REMEMBER! If you feel you or someone you know is being bullied or their consent is not being respected, tell a trusted adult.

First off, remember to talk to your kids at their level. This might seem obvious, but it’s worth remembering, because many educators’ and parents’ first fear in talking about consent is the belief that they’ll have to talk about “mature subjects”. You don’t! Not unless your students are ready, and if they are they’ll let you know (by asking questions, and because you likely already have a gauge on their maturity level to begin with). Start small… You can always add more detail later, as they need it.

Next, let your kids lead the conversation. Kids get consent at a basic level already. We all do; we all know when something doesn’t make us feel right, or makes us feel like our trust, our space, or our bodies, haven’t been respected. Once you’ve given kids a few prompts (ex. “How does it feel when somebody touches your hair when you don’t want it?”, “How do you feel when you don’t want a hug, and someone gives you one anyway?”), they will likely take off with it, which leads us to…

Now, on to making some agreements! Whether at school or at home, one very good way to reinforce the ideas that you and your kids or students have discussed is to write them down. Get a piece of paper or a board, and record 3-5 agreements about bodies, boundaries, and consent. Make sure your kids or students guide this step, too. Then have everyone (including you) sign the agreement.

After that, let kids ask questions. Really, this is true always, but for tough conversations like this, it’s especially important to check in one last time before the conversation is over. This makes sure there aren’t any hanging problems, misunderstandings, or uncertainties (at least as much as we can manage).

Finally, check in again later. Explicitly talking about consent should be a regular practice… when appropriate. It’s important to check in periodically to make sure that our kids still get it. It can take many times repeating a concept for kids to fully integrate it, and that goes for this concept, too. Making consent a regular check in also makes the conversation infinitely easier than having to have it as a reaction to something later. How often you check in is up to you, but whether parent, educator -whoever – make this conversation a habit.

Talking About The News

Talking about consent is a fantastic time to talk about what’s going on in the news, too, and vice versa, and all the same “rules” apply here, too. Talk about the Supreme Court hearings or #MeToo at your children’s level. And don’t worry about the details; ultimately, they matter far less that the overall concept, that all people have a right to determine what happens with their own bodies, and furthermore a right to stop others from violating or impeding that in any way.

Final Thoughts

Of course there’s so much more to consent than all of this, and the discussions each of us has will look different every time, depending on our kids, depending on what’s going on in the world, and so on. It’s important to know that for children of color, immigrants, and refugees here in the US, consent is an even more tenuous and potentially triggering topic; people’s race and religion can further change the impact of both the consequences and conversations around consent, and it’s our responsibility to be aware of this.

At the end of the day the most important thing is to keep talking. Destigmatizing conversations about consent make the world a safer and happier place for everybody.


Resources:

Although no resource is perfect, there are a few good tools that can help you to discuss consent with your kids or students (or colleagues!), including some fantastic videos.

  • “Consent for Kids” – This video talks about consent at the most basic level, and we believe it is appropriate for children starting around 6 years old.
  • “Consent: It’s as Simple as Tea” – This is consent for adults (and possibly teens). This video contains “bad” language, however it remains one of the best – and most concise – explanations of the importance of consent that you’re going to find. Our own Maníge Giles uses this video and the video above for her OWL classes; both are fantastic introductions to the idea.
  • “The Day You Begin”, by Jacqueline Woodson – This book is not actually about consent, but it is about racism and feeling othered, which is a major issue in addition to consent.

There are lots more resources out there, and you can be sure that as we find them, we’ll share them here on the blog, but in the meantime, if there are other good resources that you’ve found helpful, let us know in the comments!

Beyond Revolutionary Reading Part I: Apps

Banned Books Week has begun, and of course the focus this week is on the books! Still, that doesn’t mean that books should have the spotlight alone; there are lots of other resources like music, apps, and movies, that can supplement what you or your Revolutionary Readers are already doing.

Today, we’re focusing on apps for your phone or tablet.

Apps:

Our go-to Revolutionary Reader apps here at Collage…

Yes, there really is an app for everything. Apps can be a fantastic way to step up your reading game in more ways than you might expect; there aren’t just ones to find or read books, there are also plenty to help you build your reading and even activist community, and a whole lot more.

Below are a list of apps we at Collage like to use when we’re looking for ideas for what to read next:

  • We Read Too | This app is specifically designed for children and families of color, to help connect folks to books by, for, and about marginalized communities. Given this and We Read Too‘s simple and intuitive interface and guided suggestions, make it a wonderful tool for anyone looking to expand their library.

We Read Too

  • YALSA’s Teen Book Finder | Where We Read Too is an app largely geared toward slightly younger readers, the Teen Book Finder app from YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association) is, not surprisingly, built for out tween and teen learners. The app suggests an ever-changing list of new books, breaks down lists of fantastic reads based on year, genre, author, awards, and more, and gives students a number of ways to search for new books to read, regardless of theme or controversy. LGBTQ+ students may be especially delighted to find several lists just for them in the app, too!

Teen Book Finder by YALSA

  • Goodreads | Goodreads is, at its core, social media for readers. The app provides a simple, easy-to-use platform to build a reader community with friends, family, and beyond. Although lots of kids books are covered as well (and intrepid younger readers can definitely enjoy the app, too), Goodreads is definitely geared more toward mature readers.

Goodreads

  • Audible | If you’re reading this on a phone or tablet, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Audible, the audiobook arm of Amazon. Audible is a fantastic app for all readers, but is especially handy for supporting younger readers, or those struggling to pick up skills. It can be used in conjunction with paper texts to give students another way to access the content, and can help kids build excitement around reading. And besides, who doesn’t love being read to?

Audible

  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary | This app makes the list simply because everyone should have an easy-to-access dictionary when reading, and considering that Merriam-Webster’s is free, it’s an easy choice!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Of course, these are far from the only reader apps out there; these just happen to be our favorites here at the moment. If there are others that you love to use, let us know in the comments below!

Banned Books Matter

Happy Banned Books Week, Collage Fam!

What’s Up With Banned Books Week?

This year, Banned Books Week begins today (Sunday, September 23rd, 2018). Banned Books Week is a pretty big deal for us here at Collage, but before I explain why, maybe I should explain what exactly it is.

“We would argue that [Banned Books Week] is at its core a celebration freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.”

First and foremost, it is a celebration each year of books that have been censored, challenged, or banned entirely from schools, libraries, and other places that gather literature. National organizations such as the American Library Association (a major supporter of Banned Books Week) keep extensive lists of what books are being challenged or kept out of libraries, and encourage discussions about why books might be banned. Banned Books Week is a chance to bring that discussion to the forefront; more than that though, we would argue that it is at its core a celebration of freedom of speech and the fight for civil rights.

How?

That goes back to why books are banned in the first place. The common perception is that books are banned for people’s “safety” – because they contain words, or topics, or ideas that some group has deemed dangerous in some way. And while it’s certainly true that there have occasionally been books that were banned because they gave dangerous information (such as how to build a bomb), the reality is that a whole lot more were banned for a far more sinister reason: censorship, and the silencing of certain people’s voices.

“It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.”

If you look at the graphic above, you’ll see that although some books are challenged because they are “pervasively vulgar” (meaning they have a lot of bad language or potentially inappropriate content), still more are banned for political reasons (and not always friendly ones), and many others never see shelves simply because they portray People of Color, racism, or LGBTQ+ characters. Keeping those books away from folks is pretty darn silencing of people for whom those are daily experiences. It doesn’t make it any easier for a kid to come out, or to feel welcome in their skin wherever they go, if all the voices like theirs are hidden, forbidden, gone.

“Banning Books Silences Stories…”

By now I bet you’ve started to guess why Banned Books Week is so important to us here at Collage; it’s no secret that a big part of our mission as an organization here is to elevate the voices of as many people as we can. We believe that by doing this, we elevate the conversation, and build greater community. It’s even written in our Mission Statement.

We believe that censoring and banning books largely hurts our society and our communities, and especially marginalized communities and communities of color. It very clearly silences them. Destroying stories destroys culture, and ruins the legacy we leave for future generations. It’s up to all of us to stop that.

Join us all this week, as we celebrate Banned Books, Revolutionary Readers, and making our voices heard!


Take a look at the list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017, courtesy of bannedbooksweek.org and the ALA. See one that looks interesting? Maybe pick it up and take a look. It might be banned, but it’s almost certainly awesome.

When Kids are the Target: Tips for Navigating Scary Times

The world can be a scary place; this is something that as adults – and more intensely as parents – we know all too well. Too often, an awful event happens and floods our TV’s, radios, and news feeds with images and words of something terrible that people have done to others. In the past year, it feels as though we have been reminded of this more than usual… between the school shooting in Parkland, school protests and teacher walk-outs across the country, and immigrant children being separated from their parents and held in cages, a lot has happened that hits close to home for parents and families.

Try as we might to keep our children innocent of the dangers of the world, the reality is that our children are seeing and hearing many of the same things as we are, though frequently without the context we have as adults. Giving that context to our children can be nerve-wracking in its own right (which is why we frequently avoid it), but there are some simple tips to remember that can make it easier to talk about it, and take some of the fear out of it for our kids.

1. “YOU ARE SAFE!”: The very first thing to do when something scary happens in the world is to remind our children that they are safe, and that there are lots of people who are only focused on keeping them that way. Just like adults, the first thing kids look for in a crisis is stability – in the form of people, places, or even things. Reassuring children that in the moment they are safe and secure goes a long way to diminishing stress.

2. BE HONEST: After safety, foremost in talking about a scary event is acknowledging that it is real. This might seem counterintuitive, but the fact is that as caregivers and educators, credibility is key, and pretending that a terrible event didn’t happen, even though it’s likely being mentioned all over the place, only damages that credibility. It’s better to be honest, but perhaps limit the details. Which leads us to our next tip…

3. KEEP IT SIMPLE: The key to talking about any difficult topic with kids is to keep the details simple. Kids want honesty, especially when things are scary or they don’t understand them, but at the same time, kids don’t need all the details, and some of course are going to be too much for even the most mature child to understand (and again, uncertainty is often the scariest part). So, keep your explanations brief and pointed. If your kids ask follow-up questions, answer them (remember #2, about being honest), but again, remember to focus on the details that they can handle.

4. CHECK IN FREQUENTLY: Just because an event has ended, or even that media coverage has stopped, does not mean that it’s been forgotten, and this can be especially true for kids (think of the last time your child saw a scary movie… how many days or weeks did it take for them to stop talking about it?) More than that, kids often are anxious about bringing up tough topics, and they may avoid it, even when they desperately want (or need) to talk about it. That said, make sure to gently check in with your kids regularly for a few weeks after a major event, to be sure that there aren’t lingering fears or concerns.

5. PLAN AN ACTION: Ultimately, when it comes to problems (of any size) kids are just like adults – words are great, but actions make them feel best. Actions help us to push back against the things that scare us. The main thing is figuring out the right sort of action; something that feels significant, but of course not triggering. One really great way to get kids involved is a community action – neighborhood projects or discussions are a good low-key way for families to get involved. Volunteering for a local nonprofit that is working on the issue at hand is another great way. Some parents may choose to get involved in protests (our family is all about this), but if that is how your family decides to be active, make sure that the demonstration you’re attending will be friendly and safe for the kids (otherwise, the demonstration can be as triggering as the initial event!)

Navigating scary events will forever be a challenge, and no checklist can ever totally prepare us for when bad things happen, but hopefully this list helps. If you or your family have other suggestions for cutting the stress and fear when big events happen, please share them in the comments below!

10 Grown-Up Books for a More Woke Summer

Recently, we posted a list of 10 Books to Inspire Kids for the Summer, but parents deserve some reading love during break, too; besides, it’s just as important for us adults to push our minds and our limits as it is for our kids. With that in mind, the following is a list of books that should push your thinking, stretch your comfort zone a bit, and (at least for white parents and educators) challenge some of your conceptions of privilege, race, education, and access to systems.

1.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates’ seminal work is simultaneously a powerful personal narrative, and at the same time a scathing indictment of systemic racism as it is practiced in the United States. It shines a light on this institution and its many facets that is frequently painfully, brutally bright, but always necessarily so. The book is not easy to read, but Coates’ voice and presentation make it both emotionally and literarily accessible.

2.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow forces us to face the reality of racially-biased mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, and the modern extension of slavery (at present, most states ban uncompensated work in all cases except as punishment for a crime). Alexander’s work is powerful, painful, and still utterly salient six years after its original publication. (If this work speaks to you, we also highly recommend the Netflix documentary 13th).

3.

The Skin We Speak, Edited by Lisa Delpit

The Skin We Speak is a collection of essays and reflections from teachers and teacher educators who have worked (and are working) to push back against the numerous structural iniquities facing students of color, queer students, and students of other marginalized identities in the United States. The book explores a variety of perspectives, and attempts to offer some broad solutions as to how to address these incredibly important issues. Delpit is a must-read author for educators and parents alike.

4.

Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children, by Lisa Delpit

Every teacher will attest: students strive for the bar you set for them. Unfortunately, institutionalized racism has built a system wherein students of color are frequently held to the lowest possible standard. As a result, many educators and administrators ultimately then see what they expect (whether there or not), and students of color then bear that weight, only increasing their struggle to grow.

5.

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We really feel that this title of this book speaks for itself (and should be common sense to everyone anyway), but if it doesn’t, or you’re looking to feel really inspired, we highly recommend that you watch Adichie’s TED Talk. Adichie’s book is a direct extension of her Talk, exploring why feminism is so important across all boundaries. Adichie does a wonderful job of meshing personal narratives with extensive research to frame the tremendous importance of practical feminism.

6.

White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race, by Ian Haney López

We commonly think of race as a social construction, and in large part it is, but the reality is that race, and whiteness in particular, has been hotly contested from a legal perspective for more than a century in this country. White By Law explores this through a series of case studies that ultimately illustrate that whiteness has nothing to do with fairness of skin, and everything to do with a narrow set of ill-defined rules and designations that revealed whiteness to be, in essence, the absence of culture.

7.

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, by Melissa V. Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry is perhaps best known for her long running show on MSNBC (now sadly cancelled), but she has also been a longtime professor at Tulane University, and an author. In Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry explores the intersection of Blackness and femininity, and how those combined identities can lead to both a tremendous amount of strength and leadership, and equally a deep well of pain. Moreover, she explores the many frameworks through which Black women have been framed in American culture. At the end of the day, this is a phenomenal book, and no words can do justice to how beautifully MHP delivers the ideas inside.

8.

Feeling White: Whiteness, Emotionality, and Education, by Cheryl Matias

Dr. Cheryl Matias is a brilliant, invested, and engaging motherscholar, single parent to three wonderful children, and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. She is formerly a classroom teacher and a long-time teacher educator. As a result of her many roles, Dr. Matias has a unique perspective on the state of education, and this is exceptionally evident in her book. Feeling White is a deep and largely academic exploration of the impact of whiteness on education and the typical classroom in the United States.

9.

Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage, by Paulo Freire

Freire is a staple of critical race theory (CRT) and post-colonial philosophy; he is best known for his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Pedagogy of Freedom is an extension of that work, looking at the developments and changes that have happened in education and CRT. It is a short book, but incredibly powerful, and still relevant decades on.

10.

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise

Wise is a well-known standout in social justice circles. He is a bit of a standout in pop culture – a cisgender white man who openly owns his whiteness, and is willing to stand up to institutional racism. Wise’s book White Like Me is a foundational piece, exploring his journey from privileged, ignorant white man to ally and activist. It was not an easy journey – it never is – but Wise presents it in a way that is incredibly accessible. For those just beginning to explore social justice as more than an abstract, this is a fantastic place to start.

Are there any other books you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!

10 Books to Inspire Kids for the Summer

Summertime is coming fast – it’s already May, and that means for many kids, the school year will be over in just a month or so. That means all sorts of fun – family vacations, camping, hiking, swimming… lots of exciting stuff! It also means the dreaded “summer slide” – the tendency for kids to lose a bit of what they’ve learned over the past school year as they spend a few months away from the classroom.

Now, nobody wants to push their kids to spend their summer – which rightly should be full of fun and play – digging into academics; it takes the fun out of summer break, and it’s a lot of work for parents, too! Fortunately, it doesn’t take much at all to fight back against the summer slide, and to keep kids engaged in critical thinking (and social justice!) One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to make sure your kids keep reading all summer, and for that, we’ve compiled this list of fantastic, engaging books that will keep them thinking.

1.

A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara

This is a fantastic book for budding activist, for your littles that aren’t quite reading yet but are already super fierce! A may be for “activist”, but there’s a lot more beyond that.

2.

Cinnamon, by Neil Gaiman (illustrated by Divya Srinivasan)

Cinnamon is an original tale by Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline. It’s a wonderful story of a blind Indian princess who doesn’t speak. The story is simple, the art is gorgeous, and the message will delight kids from 4 to 10.

3.

Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story, by Reem Faruqi (illustrated by Lea Lyon)

As I write this list, the month of Ramadan is fast approaching, and this story provides non-Muslim and Muslim kids alike with a fantastic introduction to the concept, the ritual, and the roots of Ramadan.

4.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

It should come as no surprise that women of color have played an integral role in the building of the United States, and the advancement of science, technology, math, philosophy and more over the past 200 years. This book presents the stories of many of those women, in a quick and concise format that is accessible and interesting to readers from 6 to 12. It even makes for a great book of bedtime stories, complete with delightful illustrations.

5.

March (Trilogy), by John Lewis

March is the story of Congressman John Lewis’s early days in the Civil Rights Movement. It is presented in graphic novel format, and aimed at kids in their early to mid teens, though it is perfectly engaging for adults as well. The material is at times brutal, as was the time, but the language is absolutely appropriate for teens, and violence is presented carefully and is never gory or extreme.

6.

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History, by Chelsea Clinton (illustrated by Alexandra Boiger)

An extension of Clinton’s first book, She Persisted Around the World extends the exploration of powerful women internationally. It is a great partner book to Little Leaders, though aimed at a slightly younger age range.

7.

Wandering Son (v.1 through v.8), by Shimura Takako

Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son is a masterpiece of gender exploration from a culture that is substantially less open to trans identities than many other parts of the world. The series follows to main characters, Shiuchi (a trans girl) and Yoshino (a trans boy) as they struggle to simultaneously navigate their expanding gender identities, puberty, and starting middle school. It is as beautifully awkward as it sounds, and is full of poignant moments that will feel incredibly familiar to any teen, and especially powerful for the many tweens and teens just beginning to explore their sense of self.

8.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (v.1 through v.3), by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This series is a contemporary reworking of the story of Black Panther (a character originally introduced in 1966). That this version is written by the incredible Ta-Nehisi Coates is incredibly significant, as he explores institutional racism, inequality, and (in a tribute to Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica,) the impact that an idyllic, advanced African nation untouched by centuries of European colonialism, all in a format that will be exciting and approachable for teens and adults 14 and older.

9.

Children of Blood and Bone: Legacy of Orisha, by Tomi Adeyemi

Adeyemi’s debut work is masterful fiction; a young adult novel full of real Black Girl Magic, following the adventures of two teens, Inan and Amari, and weaving in the Orishas, West African demigods that influence nature and the lives of people in a variety of ways. The story is epic, the characters rich and relatable, and the setting incredibly dynamic. This book is a fantastic summer read!

10.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (v.1 through v.3), by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan has long been known for his series (and now movies) centering on the character of Percy Jackson, and the gods of Ancient Greece. The Magnus Chase trilogy expands that universe, instead focusing on a character by the same name, and his ties to the Norse pantheon. Given this premise, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this series was likely to be woefully generic, but in fact it belies an incredibly deep collection of teen novels, that ultimately explore race and racism, gender identity, and sexuality. The fact that Magnus Chase is (presently) a trilogy means plenty to read for the summer!

This list is by no means extensive; there are dozens of other wonderful books that make for fantastic, engaging summer reading. Let me know what your favorites are in the comments below! Also, remember, the best way to reinforce your kids’ learning (and support their budding activism) is to discuss the books they read; the more context you give them, the more they’ll get out of their reading, and you might learn something from it, too!