What do I do now? My kids are starting to read. It’s wonderful and it’s terrible. It’s the end of an era. A feeling of panic is setting in.
I’ve been changing pronouns and details on the fly ever since I started reading to them. Thus, to date, most of our books have featured characters with a really good mix of characters who use she, he, and they pronouns. (If anything we have a lot more they pronouns because that’s how representation works – you kind of have to feel like you are overdoing it in order to counterbalance the dominant culture.)
But now we are working on reading. It is truly amazing to see them making the jump from knowing letter sounds to seeing a word and reading it. Brains are so cool. But what am I to do?
On one hand, we choose a lot of their books, so they have OK content and representation around gender and race. But we also get a lot of library books and let them pick them out. (Wow there are a lot of terribly written children’s books!)
We are entering a new phase where they will be able to consume their own books and I will need to navigate how closely to follow what they are reading. In this new era, I’m no longer doing the work of changing the book to make it fit the world I want them to see (which is not the world that children’s book publishers seem to envision). Now I take the role of coaching them on how to hold the vision for a better world. How to start doing that work. (Basically some foundations of critical gender analysis….)
This is the era of talking about who is missing from the books. Whose stories are told and whose are not. How those stories are told. A ray of hope is that we have laid that groundwork already. Last night, I read in early reader book about the Avengers to my kids. It featured five white people and the Hulk, who is green. It also featured five men and one woman. After I read the book to them, this time reading the words as written, I asked them what they thought I might not like about this book. My almost six-year-old immediately said that almost all of the people were white and almost all of the people were men. I said yes.
This site was largely created to address the needs of my pre-literate kids. Stay tuned as they become readers and I need to address different issues!