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Children’s Literature and Strong Emotions During Civil Unrest

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Cover of Daniel and Ismail with the title in English, Hebrew, and Arabic on a orange background with two young boys kicking a soccer ball below the title.Multiple cities in the U.S. have been racked by civil unrest, whether the protesters are frustrated with racial inequalities, face mask policy or simply tired of the limitations of living in a pandemic. Children cannot miss hearing the strong emotions that are projected in the media or felt by adults as they eavesdrop on conversations. The resulting need is to help them think about these big events and the strong emotions that ensue.

While the previous three blog posts have been about just that–helping children think about strong emotions–this week I focus on the thoughts of children as they face civil unrest. What do children think of in the middle of unrest? What do they dream of? As adults working with children, these stories can give us a new focus for discussion as we hear about ways kids cope with stress. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Anxiety

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

The Pencil cover shows the close-up profile of girl holding up a sharpened pencil to two of her friends.The world economic crisis due to COVID-19 has left many unemployed. Newscasts report on long lines of people waiting to enter food banks or receive relief supplies. Then they report on the latest bankruptcy and use terms that hearken back to the Great Depression. Most of us know someone who has suffered from the economic downturn, which, in turn, creates anxiety in the rest of us.

During the spring semester, my university students struggled to keep up with a full load of classes through Zoom meetings, all the while helping their families out. Students’ families had small businesses that were floundering and other students had parents who had lost jobs, so all were working small jobs wherever possible. During weekly check-ins, I invited students to talk about some of the anxiety they felt as families cut back so they could maximize funds. So, this week we look at narratives of people who are lacking basic necessities. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Anger

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Angry Man Cover depicts Young boy with straight brown hair and a grave expression in lower right corner.This past week, I was at my local grocery store, masked and intent on finding the items on my list. As I swung around the corner with my buggy (obeying the one way directional arrows on the floor), a young man walked toward me, clearly not obeying the directional arrows. Furthermore he was not wearing a mask (required in all buildings in the state of Illinois). I was ticked–why did he think he could skip the mask, not follow the arrows telling him where to walk, and endanger my health??? For a moment I debated asking about his required mask, but I quickly dropped the idea and ignored him. My anger was safely bottled up and shared only with people as we discussed behaviors that keep us safe. But that is not the case for many across the country, as people express their anger at racism, the pandemic restrictions and any other big or little thing that has happened (e.g., the sun was too bright; my internet crashed yet again). Understandably, we are reacting to the tension of the difficult past months and an unknown future. As adults, we struggle to remain calm and not overreact. If we ourselves are learning how to express our frustrations in this new time, it points to the necessity of helping kids express and deal with their strong emotions, particularly the focus this week: anger. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Grief

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Cover for Paws + Edward depicts a boy in repose on the back of a giant romping dog.These past few months have given us plenty of big issues to think about with children. The pandemic has impacted daily life in families, communities, the economy and what the future looks like. If that is not enough, we are now grappling with overt racism as we hear of prejudice against Asian-Americans and police brutality towards African Americans. Immigration policy and deportations have taken a back seat in the news to race riots. The daily news has created fear and anxiety. Continue reading

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MTYT: The Dark and the Light

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Last week, Susan and Deanna looked at how companionship develops as a result of crossing borders in The Garden: A Novel. This week, they give their takes on The Light and the Dark by Kerstin Hau and how this fantasy picturebook depicts borders not as something that separates people, but as an instrument that creates a possibility of bringing people together.

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MTYT: The Garden: A Novel

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

The conflicts in today’s world forces many people to move to new places in hopes of a safer life. Though people may cross borders physically, crossing borders between different people figuratively is often the more difficult task. This week Susan and Deanna give their takes on The Garden: A Novel by Megan Ferrari, another USBBY OIB book, which focuses on a boy from Syria who moves to Canada to escape civil war and struggles to adjust to a new culture and community with help from the people around him.

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MTYT: Daniel and Ismail

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Last week, Susan and Deanna looked at Lubna and Pebble to begin this month’s theme of Crossing Borders. This week, they provide their takes for another OIB book which focuses on interactions between people of different backgrounds and cultures in Juan Pablo Iglesias’s Daniel and Ismail.

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MTYT: Lubna and Pebble

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

This month Susan Corapi and Deanna Day selected titles that were submitted to the Outstanding International Book committee. The OIB committee reads approximately 500 books and selects 42 distinguished titles that represent the best global books in the world. The committee announced the winning titles at the American Library Association conference in January. Visit the United States Board on Books for Young People(USBBY) website for the complete 2020 list of books where you can download a bookmark and a PowerPoint presentation.

As part of the work of the committee themes and issues were identified across all of the titles and for this column we selected books that address crossing borders, whether literally or figuratively.

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Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 4: Feeling Comfortable Living in the Borderlands Between Cultures

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

This week’s characteristic of intercultural competence is hard to “pin down” with good reason because it involves having a flexible mindset. Homi Bhabha, a Harvard professor who has written about this in his essay The Location of Culture (1994), calls it living in the present in the borderlands. He explains that instead of thinking of ourselves as belonging in certain cultures or spaces, we think of ourselves as in between, or the area between categories where things are fuzzy and we are redefining some of our identity. It is a place of tension–no doubt about it. But it is also an exciting place because it is an area of growth. It is a willingness to live in the messy areas instead of feeling the need to define everything in fixed categories. Continue reading

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Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 3: Seeing Ourselves with Multicultural Identities

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

When people ask me to describe myself, I am hard-pressed to know where to begin. Do I start at the very beginning and talk about all the places I have lived that shaped the way I interact with current life events? Or do I start even further back and talk about my parents and grandparents because they shaped my early values? Or maybe I should start with my husband, sons, daughter-in-laws and grandkids and the way living with them has shaped my views on childrearing, family dynamics, nutrition, etc.? Or should I begin with the life-changing experience of being connected to the work of Worlds of Words? Or I could describe the ways working at a university has shaped the questions I ask or the professional books I read. All of these cultures I belong to have molded me into the person I am. I see myself as multicultural–a person who belongs to multiple groups who have shaped (and continue to shape) my beliefs and values that in turn impact the way I deal with life events.

Cover for Marisol McDonald features an upside down girl with red braids and arms hanging downOne of my favorite book characters who exhibits this same multicultural view of herself is Marisol McDonald (Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios). While others see her as a person who doesn’t “match” because she does not follow societal patterns, she sees herself as a person who loves all the parts of her Scottish/Peruvian/American background. So she eats peanut butter burritos, wears colorful dresses with her Peruvian hat (a gift from her grandmother) and throws in Spanish words when they express her thoughts better than English words. Marisol embodies the third descriptor of interculturally competent people: folks who see themselves with multicultural identities. This week we will look at several of the titles on the USBBY Outstanding International Books 2019 list list that serve as examples of multicultural identities. Continue reading