In the spirit of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I thought I’d share a project that I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. It’s not done yet, but I would like to ask for input from you, dear readers. Here is the situation:
I am the fourth assistant leader and troop librarian for my daughter’s Girl Scout Daisy Troop, currently all first-graders. The main project the girls work on is earning their petals – one petal for each line of the Girl Scout Law. The handbook has a story for each line of the law, but the main leaders’ experience from last year was that the stories, while beautifully illustrated, aren’t well-written enough to hold the girls’ attention. Could I, as a librarian, find better books?
Of course, I said. I went off with my card catalog knowledge and my internet research skills. I couldn’t just think of books off the top of my head, but I found lists that other leaders had put together, as well as books in the library catalog. But it has turned out to be a very hard project for two reasons: first, the lines of the Girl Scout Law don’t map directly to Library of Congress subject keywords, and trying to figure out how to translate something like “be a sister to every Girl Scout” into catalog-speak is not easy. Second, the books I could find, both in the catalog and online, were all about white girls. This seemed a poor service both to our diverse troop in general and to the Girl Scouts in particular, an organization that has been integrated for nearly a century. I started over, looking for books featuring kids of color (after all, we could always look to other lists if we want.) Now the stories were all about boys. Also no good. I started over for a third time.
So, here’s what I found so far. I’m not happy with about half of my choices, and would really like your input on better titles. Here are the criteria
- An entertaining book to read aloud over about 10-15 minutes to a group of 5 to 7-year-old girls
- That is readily available from public libraries
- Is relevant to line of the Girl Scout law in question
- Have point-of-view characters who are either not white or not able-bodied
Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be:
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong,
and responsible for what I say and do,
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place,
and to be a sister to every Girl Scout
As I’ve said, I’m only happy with about half of these books – commentary is in italics if I’m not happy with it. I’d be happy with suggestions for any of the lines, though, as choice can be great!
Honest and fair
The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack. Illustrated by Giselle Potter. I couldn’t get my daughter to let me read this to her, so I don’t know how well it would work.
Friendly and helpful
How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham – You can tell by the cover that, though multicultural, this book is intended for younger kids. It also isn’t a story with a plot
Considerate and caring
What does it mean to be kind? By Rana DiOrio. Illustrated by STephane Jorisch. – This is the same as the last book – meant for younger kids, and more of a discussion than a story.
Courageous and strong
Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen. illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This is a modern-day tall tale, with a super-strong girl using her power for good. It has songs and tornadoes, and Thunder Rose defeating all kinds of villains. I read it to my daughter’s class – the quietest they’ve ever been for me reading to them. It’s long, but powerful!
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. Illustrated by Caroline Binch – this is what we actually read. My teacher friends universally love this book, which features a strong-minded girl who reaches for her dreams of playing Peter Pan in the school play. I’ve seen it criticized more recently, though, for showing Grace as having only white, male role models. Your choice!
Responsible for what I say and do
Party Croc by Margaret Read MacDonald. Illustrated by Derek Sullivan – this is a very funny African folk tale about a girl who makes a promise to a crocodile that she knows she can’t keep but expects he’ll forget about. What will she do when he expects her to keep her promise? This would also work for earning the Promise Center and discussing what “on my honor” means.
Respect myself and others
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael López – This is a concept that’s hard to find books for, but I thought this true story of a girl who tries to work within a culture to make room for her true self fit the bill. It’s also beautifully done, and one my daughter asked for over and over again from multiple people.
Sonia Sotomayor: a Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez – I found this on A Mighty Girl, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. My library has a couple other biographies of Sotomayor, but this one looks more approachable. It’s coming my way from another library in the state, so I’ll update when I get it.
Use resources wisely
Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler or Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli illustrated by Kadir Nelson – both of these are beautiful but different stories about Wangari Maathai. This goes along more with the saving the earth type of using resources wisely, so a book about using money wisely would also be great. And these books would work just as well for the next line of the law.
Make the world a better place
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena. Pictures by Christian Robinson.– I’m bending my thoughts on having the main character be a girl for this one, because it’s so perfect and because the little boy is learning from his grandmother.
Be a sister to every Girl Scout
Here Come the Girl Scouts by Shana Corey – This is a beautiful picture book about Juliette Gordon Low, who was nearly completely deaf when she founded the Girl Scouts in 1912. She’s an inspiration especially to my daughter, who is always excited to learn of other people with hearing loss.
Thank you in advance for your help – and I hope this list is helpful to others, as well!
Have you tried searching for Character Education booklists? For instance, Googling for “character education honesty” brought up this nice list http://meaningfulmama.com/2014/06/books-honesty-kids.html, which includes many anthropomorphized animal stories that might work as race neutral depictions. Also, check out Free Spirit Publishing at freespirit.org, they have lots of excellent character education series that don’t feel too preachy.
Thank you so much for the tip on Character Education especially, Heidi! That’s a huge help. I’ll take a look at that booklist and Free Spirit Publishing, too.
This sounds like a wonderful project. I’m a librarian, as well, and two fairly new books about kindness come to mind: Janine by Maryann Cocca-Leffler and Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson.
Thank you so much, Marcia! I’ll look into both those books.
Pingback: Reading the World Challenge- February | alibrarymama
Pingback: Practical Picture Book Trio | alibrarymama
Pingback: 2016 Review: the Books | alibrarymama