The We Are Kidlit Summer Reading List has become a constant in my life. For five years now, I’ve been able to gather a group of well respected individuals from the world of literature and collaborate with them to build a truly unique reading list for young readers. They come back year after year simply because of their dedication to children, and a passion for inclusive, bias free #ownvoices literature. You know how it is, the people you’ve worked with on projects, who know how to get things done well, they’re the people who are getting too much done! They’re super busy people, but they make the time for things that matter. Don’t we all?
What we do here is to spend a solid year searching out books written or illustrated by Indigenous People or People of Color. We look at diversity not only in terms of race and ethnicity but, also disabilities, LGBTQIA+ identity. We also work to include a diverse array of publishers, book genre and format. We seek out books from past years that will be more widely available in paperbacks and in libraries. And, we try to bring light to lesser known books and authors. We are willing to accept books for nomination to the list if copies can be made available to a minimal of three members of the team.
After reading a book, members nominate to the list and then someone else reads the book a second time to sort out those that contain any representation that would bring pain, unease or discomfort to young readers because of their marginalized identities. We continually discuss our process and the books and coalesce the titles into a final list every spring.
Tad Andracki is a school librarian in the Chicago area. Tad is quiet and unassuming but quite skilled in critical literacy. He had his own blog until the demands on his time got to be too much. (Blogs are very labor intensive.) He brings us a critical awareness of LGBTQIA+ representation.
Dr. Laura Jimenez blogs at BookToss. She’s an adjunct professor in Boston where she also works with pre-service educators. Laura’s expertise is with queer and Latinx representation, particularly in graphic novels.
Sujei Lugo currently serves on the ALSC Board, contributes to Latinxs in KidLit, is active REFORMA, has at least 3 writing projects going that I know of and fits all that into the hours she’s not working as a children’s librarian in Boston. She recently collected books to take home to Puerto Rico to rebuild libraries for young readers. We rely on Sujei for critical readings of Latinx representation in picture books, early readers and chapter books.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann, former editor of MultiCultural Review, is currently working as both a translator and an author. Lyn maintains her own self-named blog and she also contributes to the Pirate Tree Social Justice and Children’s Literature Blog. Lyn brings us a nuanced view of how disabilities are represented.
We were fortunate to have Dr. Debbie Reese join us again this year. I suppose she just had too much time on hands. This year, in addition to maintaining her blog American Indians in Children’s Literature, Debbie will release An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People (ReVisioning American History for Young People co-authored with Jean Mendoza and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. In just a couple of weeks, she’ll deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture in Madison, WI. Debbie brings her expertise of critically reviewing Native American literature and her awareness of new and undiscovered Native American authors.
Dr. Sonia A. Rodriguez is a an assistant professor of English in New York. In addition to professional books and articles, Sonia also writes poetry and middle grade novels. She actively collects #ownvoices ARCs, poetry, novels and GNs to give to her students. Sonia contributes to Latinxs in Kidlit and she moderates the Latinxs in Kidlit IG profile. In May, she’ll be leading a workshop on writing YA at the first annual Dominican Writers Conference in New York. Sonia’s expertise is in critically reviewing Latinx YA literature.
Others who have work with us over the years are Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen, Alia Jones, Nathalie Mvondo, Ed Spicer and Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas.
Theres’ so much that I love about each one of these individuals but, for the sake of this project I truly admire that while each brings their own particular lens to this project, everyone here is willing and able to read beyond their own identity, their own speciality, if you will, and find books from #ownvoices authors of every representation while looking for microaggressions, stereotypes and biases directed at all marginalized people. This is an ability more people need to bring to the field.
I grow quite a bit here. I grow in my ability to discuss, to question, to understand and to accept. I grow in my knowledge of books, of people who experience life differently than me and I grow my world by knowing and working with these wonderful people. I hope you all enjoy this year’s list.