Thursday, May 10, 2012

We March by Shane W. Evans

When I taught kindergarten and when I was a reading specialist, I was always searching for books that invited young readers into life experiences in gentle and genuine ways. I can guarantee you if I had found this book then, it would have been in my classroom within the week. As it is, my graduate students (all of whom are teachers) may just be seeing this one next week at our first class session.

Based on the March on Washington in August of 1963, this is a picture- rich exploration of what it was like to walk, breathe, and hope for civil rights for African Americans. The illustrations literally lift off the page in welcome and truth. They are bold, stark, and brilliant. Few words are included on each page; sometimes only two words grace a two-page spread. And the entire simple concept serves as a threshold into understanding the power in each moment of that miraculous day. The tension of the times is palpable within the book. I believe that this will become a key text for young readers who seek to make sense of a direly important time in our country.

I was 5 months old when the March on Washington occurred. I have heard my mother tell stories of that time in my family's history, of relatives and friends of my family marching, of folks pushing back in Texas, my birthplace, and in the South, where I lived for the first 10 years of my life and where my family has extensive and continuing roots. At my first teaching job, I grew speechless listening to a fellow teacher speak about her experience walking with Martin Luther King to Selma. This book serves as a critical re-centerer for me, for my teaching, and for my parenting. Racism continues here in the Northwest, like it does everywhere, and books like this one are yet another important gemstone that keeps me focused on the reasons why brave people took the risks they did for social justice over almost 50 years ago. It also reminds me how I must continue to "march" for social justice in my teaching, parenting, and living.

***Still in conversation with Alysa about her writing here. She tells me her friends don't read (sound familiar, middle-school and high school educators?). She still wants to write for the blog but I had another idea. What if in between her entries which may be more spread out than we originally agreed to if I sort of interview her or write up a few sentences on a review? Just thinking. Will let you know how it goes.

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