I liked the points made in the Ensisco article. I remember attempting to read Maniac Magee in middle school, a book that was pushed on me by my peers because the character's name was like mine but it was a boy. Eleven year olds think they're so funny. It didn't help that this was a highly recommended book too. I think I got about 30 pages in before I couldn't read it anymore. Up until reading the article, I couldn't remember what the story was about (honestly, I was thinking run away time traveller; obviously I didn't remember the book). There were very few books that I did read during the age range of Maniac Magee. But I remember my younger brother reading it with my mom years later. My mom really kind of expressed the same issues the researcher had in this article; the black characters seemed to be so one-sided and stereotypical.
Ensisco talks a lot about the power of authority when it comes to choosing texts. He mentions the Newberry logo and the power it has over students. That emblem to this day makes me cringe because I hated reading between fifth and seventh grades, and I mean hated it. Up until about eighth grade, I was considered a struggling reader because of my lack of interest. The Newberry books were supposed to be the "good" books, and harder and better and probably God himself wrote them (at least in my mind anyway--I was cynical even as a young kid. Ask my parents; they'll agree). These books were so important, that we were given double points in class. The only Newberry book I read in middle school was Number the Stars. I liked that book better than most when I was between ten and twelve.
I don't remember a lot of these books being all that rich in exploring multicultural perspectives though. All of the books that were recommended to us by librarians and teachers (people of authority) seemed to be about poor people in the south, or some kind of time travel/separate world kind of thing, like Freaky Friday or The Giver. I wasn't all that interested in these kind of books. I'm not sure why nothing looked appealing. I liked the American Girl series about the Swedish girl. I could read one of those books in an afternoon. I liked that it referenced culturally relevant things that my family, as Swedes, practiced or had. I liked seeing the illustrations of trunks that had the Kurbits painting style on them because I saw them in all of my relatives' homes. I was so excited when I read the Christmas story in that series and found out that I was not the only girl to have to wake up early on St. Lucia Day to make breakfast wearing a crown of fake candles. No, you cannot see pictures.
I asked a librarian once if they had other books like that series and she told me they didn't carry books like that because they weren't the right kind I should be reading and had no value in a school library. I cried out of frustration and stopped going to the library after that. These memories, trivial as they may seem, are ones that still haunt me. I don't go to libraries, if I can help it, even today. At ten years old I knew that what that librarian said to me was wrong. Not only were my interests insulted, but so was my cultural background as well as my family. The worst part is, I am not a minority, nor am I all that culturally diverse from the dominant one.
This article reminded me of the influence we as teachers have. It's reminded me to choose class texts carefully and provide other varying works that compliment it for additional perspectives. I sometimes wonder if students coming from a minority culture experience similar situations in libraries. Is this why so many students who aren't of the dominant culture struggle with literacy and/or education in general?
Also, out of curiosity, some of these articles are capitalizing the words "White" and "Black." Have I been wrong to not capitalize them? I feel like they shouldn't be.