Today is World Book Day (WBD), and it's celebrated in many countries and languages. Created by the United Nations to promote reading, publishing and copyright, WBD provides a particular opportunity to think about, enjoy and share books.
Many people love to read. Many people don't like to read at all. Many, many others rarely or never get the chance to read.
I am one of the lucky ones because I learned to read as a little girl. I remember the Dick and Jane stories that got me started and, as I write this, can feel the pleasure of sounding out the words. A bonus for me was that my oldest brother is named Dick, and my middle name is Jayne (I allowed myself to ignore the "y" in my name), so somehow the books felt even more like mine.
I remember consciously feeling the pleasure of the words, stories and pictures. As I got older, that love extended to Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and great stacks of biographies and autobiographies I'd cheerfully lug home from the library. (Don't get me started on how much I love libraries.)
At this stage of my life I recognize factors that I didn't as a child. In university I did a project called "Sexism in Children's Literature." It was rampant. A few years ago, I gave my Early Childhood Educator students an assignment to look for sexism in children's books. Some things have changed on that front, but we have a long way to go in our still-male-dominated societies.
I've also come to see how racially slanted many books are. The images that meet us in most magazines and advertisements still sport mainly white faces. The stories reflect primarily white experiences. Of course, many stories are universal in their themes of struggle, love, victory and strength, and it's good that this is so.
How can you help move us all along? Write. Read. Tell the stories you live and imagine. This way, we all learn and grow.
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