Children from dominant social groups… have suffered from the lack of availability about others… They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in, and their place as a member of just one group, as well as their connections to all other humans. . . If they see only reflections of themselves, they will grow up with an exaggerated sense of their own importance and value in the world—a dangerous ethnocentrism.Rudine Sims Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.”
Roselle, IL, is a town of around 24,000 people approximately thirty minutes outside of Chicago, and, like much of DuPage County, the population is predominantly white. Considered together, the surrounding towns that matriculate to Lake Park High School (Roselle, Bloomingdale, Itasca, Medinah, and Keeneyville) are about 75% white, 10% Hispanic, 10% Asian, and 5% Black.
With this in mind, the Youth Services Department of Roselle Public Library District set out to find materials and programs that could act as a mirror into the lives of children from various races and ethnicities. We hoped that multicultural stories could reflect the diverse society outside of Roselle rather than only reflecting the realities that children in our community already see. When our community surveys came back requesting expanded, quality children’s programming, my former department manager started looking for ideas, and with her ideas, grants.
At some point, she learned about the 2022 Maureen Hayes Author/Illustrator Award from ALSC. The award offers up to $4,000 to fund an author/illustrator visit to a library. Two members of my department wrote a successful grant application arguing in favor of using the Hayes Award to expand upon previous community initiatives, such as our local high school’s successful Lake Park Reads event in April 2022. In conjunction with the local libraries, Lake Park brought Arshay Cooper, author of A Most Beautiful Thing: the True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team, to do a well-received talk for the community.
Upon being awarded the Hayes grant, we invited Angela Dominguez, New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of books like Stella Diaz Has Something to Say, Mango, Abuela, and Me, and one of my favorites, 2021’s I Love You, Baby Burrito, to do a community presentation. On the morning of January 21, 2023, I got to meet Angela Dominguez.
Thanks to the Maureen Hayes award, we were able to afford to fly Angela out to do the presentation in person. The award, combined with assistance from Bloomingdale Public Library and Itasca Community Library, covered the cost of Angela’s honorarium and travel. The local high school provided the use of their auditorium for the presentation, and the local Kiwanis donated funds to purchase notebooks and pencils for children to use for an art lesson during the presentation.
Angela presented several of her picture books, talked about her childhood and her path to becoming an author/illustrator, and taught the group how to draw a giraffe. During the presentation, she suggested that any young artists consider keeping a journal where they draw out characters as they think of them. That way, instead of just practicing drawing, they remember what they were thinking of when they came up with the character. This was super effective! Angela’s coupling of art with stories really resonated with the children who attended: in addition to being excited to learn to draw a giraffe, the kids were able to consider art as being part of the story, rather than an isolated drawing.
Since the presentation, children who attended have told me about how much they enjoyed the event. The Roselle Library had not had an in-person children’s author visit since 2018, so many of the children in the audience had never seen a real live author or illustrator before. They loved the hands-on component in the drawing lesson, and one of our regular patrons, a nine year-old boy, told me a few days after the event that he decided to take Angela’s advice: in his drawing journal, he has already drawn five characters to go with his current story.
By inviting Angela Dominguez to present in our community, my library succeeded in bringing a mirror to our community while reflecting our children’s desire to express themselves through art. Because we were granted the Hayes Award, we were able to bring an author/illustrator to visit who we could otherwise not have afforded, to read books in English and Spanish and explain to an audience of children that she started drawing at their age. The audience left that day aware of characters who live in or come from different countries who are, nevertheless, a lot like them. And maybe, just maybe, one day their art could be a book, and they could be like Angela Dominguez.
Our guest contributor today is Stephanie Forrest. Stephanie is the School Outreach Librarian at Roselle Public Library District in Illinois and the Vice President of the School Facilitators Networking Group. She visits schools, daycares, festivals, and anywhere else her community needs a traveling children’s librarian.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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