July 12th, 2024

Library Chat: Grab some books and find out why world’s social problems are happening

By Medicine Hat News on August 18, 2017.

Although we may feel far removed from the murderous protest in Charlottesville, Va., it’s all far too close for comfort. You might be fielding questions from your children about what is going on, or maybe they aren’t asking but are overhearing discussions they may not fully understand.

Your public library has materials for all ages, including materials that will help you start a conversation with children and open the door for them to understand any kind of difficult issue at a level that is comfortable for them and for you. Check it out yourself, so you’ll know what’s in a work, but what appeals to adults is not necessarily what appeals to children, so let them read and decide for themselves if a resource meets their wisdom needs.

The award winning free verse work “Brown Girl Dreaming,” by Jacqueline Woodson, suitable for adults and children, might be a good place to start. “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia, for roughly ages eight and up, deals with issues of race and gender in the 1960s, and “Amos Fortune, Free Man” by Elizabeth Yates is also suitable for young chapter book readers.

“Separate is Never Equal” by Duncan Tonatiuh is available as an audiobook and as a short video of the book. This picture book work discusses the fight to end school segregation for agricultural workers in California in the 1940s. Or, for a more regional experience, or introduce a piece of family history, you could pick up “Baseball Saved Us,” about Japanese internment, by Ken Mochizuki.

Following the discourse on social media I caught myself a few times thinking, “but what does the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have to do with anything?” That is how far removed I am from the Black Lives Matter social movement. It’s easy to remedy that kind of thing: search the library catalogue by keywords “black lives matter”and you’ll find everything from “Why We Can’t Wait” by Martin Luther King, which is poignant to find in 2017, to “How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of A Southern Childhood,” by Jim Grimsley.

If you catch yourself saying “I don’t understand whyÉ” then grab some books and find out why; dig into the historic, economic, and social factors that led us to Charlottesville. If you are embarking on a road trip you might download the audiobook “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans” by Kadir Nelson, who also penned a number of works for a variety of ages.

We offer similar books for young adults, “Freedom Summer Murders” by Don Mitchell, and for adults, “Freedom Summer: The Savage Season that made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy” by Bruce Watson. Read in parallel with your teen as a way to start a conversation and stay connected with what they are picking up from friends and social media.As a professional librarian I do fully condone bribery when it comes to summer reading: Read, discuss, then go for ice cream or the latest desirable gadget.

If you’re an adult who feels somewhat cautious about even talking about the subject, because you realize that, in my case for example, I don’t know what it’s like to be any colour other than white and I’m living in the same province I was born in, the book “Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice” by Canadian Paul Kivel, might be the sort of concrete advice and guidance we need.

We got to Charlottesville, to name just one recent tragedy, by letting shallow or one-sided news coverage, social circle beliefs, and social media influence us unduly.Libraries are waiting to help you enrich your understanding of issues big and small by offering deeper, broader, and sometimes divergent, works on every topic.We hope to see you soon.

Shelley Ross is chief librarian at the Medicine Hat Public Library.

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