WOW Currents

Windows to the World — A Quick Look at Haiti

by Barbara Thompson-Book, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, IN

Fellow travelers, when I was looking at books for the Americas during week two, I failed to mention books on Haiti. That oversight does not mean that there are not some wonderful books available about the island nation so on our minds right now. As teachers and parents, our children and students must certainly have questions about what they are seeing on the news, so I have researched some titles you might want to share and have looked at Web sites that support these books. I want to issue this disclaimer, I have not read some of these books. I am working from reviews published in Horn Book Guide. I used as my search criteria the score of 3 (out of 6 with 1 being highest, and realizing that Horn Book Guide rarely gives out a 1) as the cut off for acceptable books. This does not guarantee that the books are authentic, nor does it guarantee that there aren’t issues of stereotyping in the books. Given the urgency of the topic, I’d rather have the titles out there than err on the side of caution.
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WOW Currents

Windows to the Worlds — Part 3

by Barbara Thompson-Book, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, IN

Welcome back to those of you who have been traveling with me around the world and exploring places we may never see ourselves, but can visit because of the wonderful writing and artwork of authors, illustrators, and photographers sharing their corner of the world. I’ve been pairing books with sources from the World Wide Web, as our world ever expands. To those of you who are just joining me on this adventure, welcome!

This week we are looking at books set in Africa. Keeping in mind Kathy Short’s post, I tried to make sure that the books shared here do not stereotype Africa as a world of poverty. I have to say, that this presented a challenge, first because there is, in fact, so much poverty in Africa, and second because authors have in many cases chosen to highlight the plight of African children. I will try to present a realistic view of Africa, although I have never personally been there. In looking for books to highlight I looked for stories that represented modern Africa or reflected some of the struggles that the African continent has undergone.
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WOW Currents

Windows to the World — Part 2

by Barbara Thompson-Book, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, IN

Last week I explored a part of the world that is fraught with conflict and, though there is conflict in my next area of the world (Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and and South America), I’d like to take a more positive approach to the exploration of books from our neighbors to the south and the Web sites that support them. Last week I explored novels, so this week I’ll look at picture books. Let’s have some fun!
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WOW Currents

Windows on the World — Part 1

by Barbara Thompson-Book, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, IN

It has been said that books, including books for children and young adults, can act as “windows on the world.” When we give our children books about places they have never visited, but have heard of from family members, the news, movies, or other print media we offer them glimpses of what living in a culture other than their own might be like. This echoes Holly Johnson’s post in August, about using international books to help inform our children’s understandings about geography and the world at large. She wrote, “I find it important to educate young people about geography and the present reality of a particular region.” Of course in today’s electronic environment, information on just about any topic is at their fingertips via Google or any of several search engines, thus providing another window to the world. The issue then becomes, how can we, as teachers, use both high quality literature about worlds other than the one we inhabit, and bring credible internet sources together to support that literature? That is my intent for the next four weeks — to link incredible stories of places I have not visited except in books with internet sources that have helped inform me about the material I experienced in the books through reading.
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WOW Currents

The Role of Small Presses in Multicultural Children’s Books

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Last week I shared information that I collected on the role that small, independent book publishers play in publishing multicultural children’s books, particularly bilingual books. In this post I examine the contributions made by small presses and discuss some publishers who are committed to publishing quality children’s books that were originally printed in another country and often in another language.

Not too long ago, as a child growing up in Georgetown, D.C., I remember little Mom and Pop stores located on every corner. My friend Sarah lived near Mrs. Rosen’s store — so close that her mom would send us there on Saturday mornings to get breakfast. You had to ring the bell at Mrs. Rosen’s so she would buzz you in. We had another corner store closer to our home, where my 25 cent weekly allowance would buy a lot of penny candy.
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WOW Currents

Creating Book Brands

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

admitoneThis week I want to examine a trend that the large, conglomerate book publishers are using to sell children’s books. This trend is called branding. Branding is a marketing term for the process of creating a brand that encourages people to identify a certain product more quickly. Nike, Coke, and Microsoft are all brands that immediately evoke a particular product –- and a particular feeling about that product. With books, branding means creating other products that tie in with the book. Book publishers and sellers have used tie-ins with book characters for centuries as a strategy to make their books more attractive to the people -– adults and children -– who buy them. There is concern that this practice has gotten so out of control in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that publishers have lost sight of the goal of publishing to produce good literature and have turned it instead into a commodity driven empire. Let me give you some examples.
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WOW Currents

Independent Publishers Feature Bilingual Books

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Last week I discussed how several small, independent presses are publishing bilingual children’s books, often at the request of teachers and librarians within their communities who want to provide books in the languages that their children speak. These smaller companies have found an important economic niche in publishing multicultural books, particularly bilingual books, since the audience for these books is too small for the large conglomerate publishing houses to make publishing these books economically feasible (although more of them are discovering the market for books in Spanish). The smaller companies also have the advantage of being able to work closely with authors and illustrators to ensure that a book is culturally authentic, since they often find authors and illustrators from within their own communities, and can utilize their local resources to ensure that the language and culture portrayed in their books is authentic. For this reason, teachers and librarians can be assured that books published by these smaller companies are culturally authentic. I’d like to look at some of these smaller companies located in the greater Southwest and at some of the outstanding books they are producing.

Probably one of the most well-known independent presses that publishes multicultural and bilingual children’s books is Continue reading

WOW Currents

Publishing Bilingual Books

by Ann Parker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Last month, Janine Schall interviewed children’s book writer and illustrator Xavier Garza, who publishes his books in English and in Spanish because he thinks children should be exposed to their first language or to a language other than their own. More and more publishing companies, particularly smaller, independent publishers, are publishing dual language books. This week, I’d like to examine bilingual books and the role they can play in the classroom. Next week, I’ll focus on some of the outstanding bilingual books that are being published by independent publishers.

For my doctoral dissertation, I interviewed people from five publishing companies (Cinco Puntos Press, Luna Rising, Salina Bookshelf, Piñata Books, Children’s Book Press, and the University of New Mexico Press) to learn why they were publishing multicultural children’s books generally and bilingual books specifically. I found that most of them considered these books to be a niche market, because the big conglomerate publishing companies, whose interest is mainly in how many books they can sell, weren’t interested in books that had such a small buying audience from the outset. Interestingly enough, several national companies, such as Scholastic, have decided that there is a big enough market for Spanish language books (see Scholastic en Español), but the smaller companies also publish books in Native American and Asian languages as well as other languages from around the world.
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Children Respond to Xavier Garza’s Books

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan America, Edinburg, TX

In previous posts I talked with author Xavier Garza about his books for children. I’d like to share more children’s responses to Xavier’s work in this bonus post. I’d also like to ask other teachers and librarians to share by commenting here how they have used multicultural literature with their students. How do students respond to multicultural literature? How do teachers and librarians facilitate this response?

Angie Hilton read Zulema and the Witch Owl with her fourth grade students in Alamo, Texas. Her students then created an artistic response. I’ve included some of their work in this slide show:

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"Is the Chupacabras Real?" Xavier Garza Answers Questions from Children

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

On this fifth Monday of November, we continue our focus on children’s author Xavier Garza. In this post, Xavier answers questions from 2nd and 3rd grade students at Ynes B. Escobar Elementary in Roma, Texas. Student questions were video taped and transcribed. Xavier’s responses follow the transcription.

Mr. Xavier Garza, what gave you the idea to write the storyJuan and the Chupacabra? Like were you looking around and something gave you the idea?

Xavier: The idea came to me from my childhood memories. When I was little my cousins and I would pretend to hunt for monsters in the fields found in the back of our grandfather’s house. We would hunt for everything from La Llorona to the Chupacabras, but we never did catch any of them.
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