One of the biggest problems I see as a school librarian is the lack of access to diverse books. The scarcity of children's literature that is representative of urban children, people of color, and the broad diversity of society is real. This is worrisome because as Rudine Sims Bishop said, "when children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about who they are devalued in the society of which they are a part of.” With help from our amazing friends at Wondermore, we decided to end the school year with an author visit from Susan Tan, giving students a chance to meet an author they could connect with.
As Toni Morrison wrote, "If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” Susan Tan did just that. Susan Tan is the author of Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire and Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is A Classic. The third book in the Cilla series will be released in 2019.
Tan showed the students a day in the life of a writer. She showed students where she gets her inspiration and how she goes through the writing process. Students loved learning that Tan writes on her phone and does some of her best work while on the go. Tan mentioned that students might even see her writing while riding the T! Tan drew from real stories to write the Cilla series, explaining to students that her work is based on her own life and family. Students loved learning that the chapter where Cilla puts sparkles in her hair is something that actually happened in Tan’s childhood!
The books available to students need to be as diverse as they are. Many of the students were able to personally identify with Tan’s story and characters. She inspired many of them to continue working on their own creations and let them know that they are ALL writers. Her books are culturally-relevant and resonate with students’ own experiences. I believe that in order to make our students be passionate readers, it is important for them to feel that they can make connections.
Mrs. Keohane is the School Librarian at the P.A. Shaw. She loves hockey, going to the beach, and reading (obviously!)