Parents: We MUST Teach Our Kids To VOTE

Election Day

Tomorrow is Election Day here in the US, and that means many people will be taking time out of their day to go and vote, if they haven’t already. Depending on where you live, that may mean going to a polling place to stand in line, use some machine or other, and cast a ballot; it might mean driving a mail-in ballot to some official collection spot; or else perhaps checking an app for the status of the absentee or mail-in ballot you sent back days or weeks before.

No matter how it looks or who you vote for though, the important thing is to do it, though sadly lots of people don’t, and while understand the frustration some feel in the process, the fact that it can be obtuse at times, or the persistent fears that our votes may not count or be counted for one reason or another, we maintain that it is incredibly important to go out and vote… and especially if you’re a parent, to involve your kids.

Why?

For Our Kids’ Future

The first and most important reason to vote as a parent is for the sake of your children, and specifically their future. Bear with us – we understand this sounds very crunchy – but the reality is that whether or not you feel that the elections will have a direct impact on your life, it is certain that the choices made each election will have an impact on theirs. Without digging into the specific politics and policies, it’s a safe bet that each election season, there are some mix of candidates and ballot measures that will impact you children’s schools, parks, play spaces, and beyond for years to come.

Perhaps school funding is on the table, as in many places here in Colorado. Maybe there’s a candidate who is dedicated to making more green spaces for kids to play, or expanding access to school lunches, or improving teachers’ pay. All of these things impact our children tremendously, and us as well.

Modeling Skills

Another big reason to involve your children in your voting process is to model skills. Even if you largely vote a straight ticket (all for one party or another), there’s a process that you follow to make your decisions, and to cast your ballot. So, this comes in two parts: first, modeling your decision-making process (which could include research, conversations, or even family traditions), and second, modeling the process you use to actually cast your ballot, once your decisions are made.

Modeling research skills is of course important because our children are doing just that every day in school. Demonstrating that research happens at home, too – that it’s applicable in everyday life – lets our kids know that it’s a transferable skill, something that, if developed, they can take with them as part of their learning toolkit for the rest of their life.

Modeling the process is equally important: voting, though not perfect and not quite universal, is an integral part of the function of groups, communities, and nations across the planet. Moreover, by demonstrating the process to our children (who we already know are sponges for everything we say and do as parents), we normalize the practice, and so make it less intimidating for our kids, when the chance arises for them.

It’s (Probably) Not Taught In School

Many parents, even younger ones, still remember some version of Social Studies or Government classes from our time growing up, and those classes almost invariably encompassed some broad concepts of the functions and processes of government, or “civics”. Essentially, for better or worse, voting used to be taught in school, but that is largely no longer the case. Much as with “Sex Ed”, art, and music, civics is (ahem, strangely) considered to be too controversial a topic for schools to be able to “properly” handle it, and so it has been pushed further and further to the wayside.

Whether you feel this is a problem or not, the result is the same: your children will almost certainly not learn about the process unless you teach them. If you care that your children become voters as adults, the best way to ensure it is to model it.

Voting Matters

Although you may have thoughts about our politics here at Collage, we care more that you vote than for whom or what you cast your ballot, because at the end of the day, voting makes a difference. For better or worse, in large ways or small, our system of government allows us to have a say in the direction that we move as a society. It is a tremendous and unprecedented amount of power in the grand arc of history, and something for which so many of our ancestors fought and sacrificed dearly.

As such, our votes and our actions around the process are the greatest legacy we leave our children, collectively. Let us leave one we can be proud of.

Further Resources

There are lots of wonderful resources available to help inform your voting process. We would love to cover more, and we may in the future, but for today we would like to recommend Ballotpedia, a fantastic site that gives clear and comprehensive breakdowns of virtually every ballot in the country, in a nonpartisan format.

We Made a Thing!

The Story

As most readers know, last week was Banned Book Week, a very special “holiday” for us here at Collage Colorado. During that time, we did lots of things to celebrate, such as the fantastic guest articles we featured and our classroom discussions. We were so delighted by the wonderful response we had last week that we were inspired to design a poster, in honor of banned books and the folks who read and fight for them. We’re pretty proud of it, and we hope that you like it, too! That’s because…

We’re Going to Sell Our Posters!

That’s right – coming very soon, we will be selling our ¡Viva la Literatura! posters (and a whole lot more)! Collage Colorado, LLC is dedicated to working on a non-profit basis; proceeds from the posters will go to funding Collage Colorado’s classroom work, and expanding our Revolutionary Reader library.

The Details

We’ll have more details very soon, but for now we can tell you that posters will come in two sizes: 8″x10″ and 16″x20″. Both are high resolution and glossy, and the 16″x20″ posters are printed on durable 80lb paper.

Ordering details will be posted on a separate page, but for now, please email collagecolorado@gmail.com or send us a message through our Facebook page if you’re interested in buying one! We love commentary too (trolls aside), so feel free to tell us what you think, too! Depending on how these do, there may be other ¡Viva la Literatura! items soon, too.

Censoring White Supremacy: Building Blocks of Pride

Banned Books Week: Guest Perspectives
By M. Giles, Director of National Outreach, Birth
Doula, Sexual Health Educator

When we think of banned books, we think of books that involve something that causes a moral or ethical disturbance for the people in power. As history continues to teach us, it is always written by the oppressor, and by proxy the books we have access to are controlled by the oppressor as well. One of the most relevant examples as it relates to The United States of America is Black Boy by Richard Wright, banned purely for candidly detailing the Black experience. The act of lynching, Jim Crow, and genocide are seen as more tasteful than the experience of those most affected. Again, lynching, Jim Crow, and genocide are seen as more tasteful than the experience of those most affected. Let that sink in – it’s easier to palate a lynching, than to hear the story of a man whose community is being lynched; and while we have an entire week to to reflect and engage in this conversation, I offer that censorship has a place and that place is in my home.

Outside the four walls of my house, society will teach my children to value, covet, and conform to white normative standards of beauty, education, mores. Outside the four walls of my house my children are bombarded with images and stories of all of the ways their Blackness is dangerous and their whiteness is safe. Make no mistake, my children are Black. They will navigate their world through the lens of a person of color, regardless of the genes they carry, and will be well acquainted with that perspective by the time they reach adulthood. I cannot protect them from that (and I wouldn’t want to), but I can insulate them through censorship.

In my house, we censor as much whiteness as we can. We censor out Disney’s Cinderella in favor of Rodger and Hammerstein’s version featuring Brandy. We censor out Aileen Quinn in favor of Quvenzhané Wallis. We censor Judy Garland and replace her with Diana Ross. We avoid American Girl dolls because the narrative of the only Black doll in the history line is as a slave… as if that was the only place Black women have had in history. Of the other two Black girls offered in their other lines of dolls, one carry’s a ghetto blasting boom box and the other is a singer. Meanwhile the white girls, which outnumber them more than 2 to 1, get to be a second wave feminist (*cue eye roll*), a patriot, a journalist, and – better yet – a debutante with staff she pities.

This censorship is necessary then because children as young as two are able to identify people by the stereotypes we’ve build and by the time they are five, they have internalized the racial prejudices of society. So in raising Black children, it is my duty to build an identity that rejects white as the default, and even more disturbingly the only thing worth striving for. My job is to insulate my children from white supremacy, and since it is so pervasive, the only way to build the blocks of pride is to censor out white media until they identify the racial pride as readily as other kids can identify the stereotypes.


Maníge Giles is an active member of several intersecting communities in the Denver area and beyond, as well as a contributing member of Collage Colorado, LLC. We were so delighted to add her voice to this series!

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.

Something Big is Coming…

Banned Books Week begins this coming Sunday (September 23rd), and that means that big things are coming to Collage! On the blog for the next two weeks, keep an eye out for all sorts of Bannded Books Week content, from lists of our favorite banned books and music to keep you pumped while reading, to activities and more! Got an idea for something you’d like to do for #BannedBooksWeek? Let us know in the comments below!