It is embarrassing to confess that my school library collection has state books that are twenty years old. But I am more willing to admit that my collection is woefully out of date because publishers are still publishing books that are filled with bias.
If in 2014 I can’t find an updated series that is inclusive in its representation and history, I’d rather keep my old ones.
During my recent search for new state books, I was at first seduced by Children’s Press’s (an imprint of Scholastic) Blast Off Readers. It offered some compelling features for the budding researchers in my school. I liked that it had:
- A table of contents
- An index
- Useful and interesting topics including history, the land, landmarks, wildlife, food, festivals, work, play, and fast facts
- An up-close map of the state, with some major cities, and surrounding states
- An insert map of where the state is located within the U.S.
- Attractive photographs
- A clean and simple appealing lay out (so many books have confusing or cluttered design.
- It had a nice balance of text to visuals.
- Clearly presented text which wasn’t so simple that it didn’t say much and not too complex for my younger students.
I was ready and excited to blast off with the series. But then I was saddened and even a bit disgusted to I realize the series did not stand up to the anti-bias test.
In fact, I hadn’t even officially run it through my checklist. Yet flipping through the Louisiana book I was struck by how few photos of African Americans were included.
Louisiana’s population is approximately 60% white so having 2 photos of African Americans out of 9 photographs or drawings of people is almost not egregious. However, one of the two photos is a small insert (eve though the caption does give credit to Louis Armstrong for being one of the most famous jazz musicians of all time). The other photo of a jazz band in New Orleans has some of the African American musicians but several of them are in the gutter of the book and therefore the visual focus of the photo is of the Caucasian audience.
Why is this a big deal you make ask? Because I worry about what conclusions children are unconsciously drawing. I am guessing that they are probably picking up some of the same messages the publishers, designers, writers etc. are unconsciously perpetuating.
(At least I hope they are unaware of the impact of their choices.)
So I started to closely examine the book and put it through my anti bias check list. Such scrutiny is more than one posting so I will share my findings on Thursday.