Listening to All Things Considered on NPR this week, I learned that Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming (which I haven't read yet, but on my list) is the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
I was not aware that we had such a thing, so I turned up the volume and leaned in closely listening to hear more about what this ambassador does. As I alluded to in a recent post reading is something I spend quite a bit of time doing and has been top of mind lately.
As the ambassador, she get's a lot of freedom to choose her mission. How cool is that? Imagine if we all had a bit more freedom to set our own mission to change the world no matter what our title is.
I was thrilled to learn that Woodson’s vision includes focusing on the importance of getting rid of labels that define the type of reader you are. Whether this is “advanced reader” or “struggling reader” these labels stick with children, often into adulthood, and are not helpful. I know for a long time I used the label "slow reader" to imply that I was not a very good reader. I have since learned, of course, that sometimes I read fast other times slower. Also, that it is not really about the speed of reading but that you read and can comprehend what you are reading. Also, that by reading you can enjoy the possibilities that come from setting off on a journey to learn and expand your thinking.
Woodson noted that instead of the labels, she wants to see more concentration on how a book makes us think or feel and to reclaim the word “reader.”
We use labels as a way of making sense of our world, yet using a label is a way that one person names and defines who someone is. Often when we tell people who they are they believe it, they soak it in, and it sticks with them.
And a label that we might find useful or think is positive and encouraging might be far from it. I don't know that I have met anyone who doesn't recall something that a teacher said that might have included something like "your such a good painter" or "you are not very good at math are you." And these stories became part of the story they told for a long time. Again, not always bad but it really can have a significant impact on paths take (or avoided).
The mathematical equation Woodson has come up with is "Reading equals hope times change. Woodson told NPR, “Reading equals hope times change. So, of course, it’s that play on words, but it’s also the fact that we come to books looking for the hope in them. And when we close a book, we’re a different person than when we first opened that book. And reading begins a conversation. And my hope is that we can start having these conversations that literature triggers around the country.”
I share her hope and believe that reading is a key that will unlock so many paths to engage in challenging conversations. I want to do what I can to be an advocate and champion for adult readers and look forward to continuing to share what I'm reading and book suggestions here.
Additionally, I will put together a page with book recommendations that include some of my favorites so far. In the meantime, what are you reading? Looking for ideas, check out MY FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2017.