Yesterday I read Created Equal to a group of kids in an after-school program. At first they were less than thrilled that I wasn’t going to be reading a storybook. Almost all the kids I read to in after-school programs prefer fiction over nonfiction. And history? That’s something they have to study in school, but this was after school was over for the day. They wanted something fun. Continue Reading
I’m sure your mother pounded the sharing ethos into your head like my mother did into mine, but sharing is good in adult situations too and not just when another kid wants to play with your toy or when you have a friend over and you have some candy or other goodies. Continue Reading
I read something online recently that intrigued me. Some fellow—if I ever caught his name (and I doubt it) I surely don’t remember it now (but God bless him)—has appointed himself a one-person volunteer bookmobile. He is emptying out his personal library and leaving huge stacks of books in public places (e.g. Grand Central Terminal, Brooklyn Bridge—he’s a New Yorker) for people to take. The books come with notes that they are available free…and with a slip of paper with this “book-Santa’s” email address, inviting a reply from whoever chooses to take the book home. Continue Reading
What’s that you say? You’re longing to take a trip abroad to see the sights in distant lands, but it isn’t in your budget? Or you’re eager to learn about something new, but there aren’t any TED talks scheduled for your locality, and a dry lecture on the drier Sahara, the only talk that is on offer, isn’t your cup of tea?
Read a book! Continue Reading
Although I write for both adults and kids, most of the book-readings I do are kids’ books, both to audiences of pre-schoolers and to audiences of school-age kids in after-school care. My usual M.O. is to bring with me small slips of paper on which I have printed the book’s title, the publisher’s website, and the suggestion that the parents buy their kids whatever book it is that I am presenting that day. Continue Reading
Roundtable/Great Reads is on the cusp of publishing—may have already published, by the time you read this—a book called Passover, which teaches kids about the Jewish holiday of the same name.
I didn’t intend it to be read only by Jewish kids.
When I was a teenager—which was a very long time ago!—I joined an organization called Youth for Better Understanding. Its purpose and mission was to promote not only better relations but also better understanding (just like the name said) between the Christian and Jewish teens in the community.
We had no Muslims living there. We had no Blacks. We had no Latinos. No Native Americans either.
But the Christians and Jews almost never mixed. (That might lead to—gasp!—interfaith dating, and nobody, on either side of the divide, wanted to see their kids going out with one of “them”! <shudder> Remember, we are talking about roughly half a century ago.)
The organization didn’t accomplish much, and to the best of my recollection, it disbanded after a year or so. But it imprinted in my mind the need for better understanding among kids of different faiths and different economic strata.
If we didn’t accomplish much, at least we were peaceable. At least we discussed our differences in an educational, informative manner. We were civil. No arguments or “Our way is right” garbage broke out among us.
That’s more than I can say about us adults of today—especially on the political forefront. No, I’m not going to point fingers or name names concerning any particular candidate or that candidate’s followers. There’ve been quite a number of guilty parties among the candidates, and I think we all know who they all are. And as for the partisans among us supporters, shame on everyone who exceeded the boundaries of civil disagreement—and if you read the morning paper or watch the evening news or read some of what gets posted to social media, you’ve seen a lot of people who’ve exceeded the boundaries of civil disagreement.
Why can’t we have…better understanding?
I have friends and associates whose political views and/or views on social issues are polarly opposite from mine. In some cases I actually can see their side very clearly. In other cases I don’t—but I still respect their right to hold their opinions.
Which can come from books as well as from face-to-face interaction. Sometimes book-learning is better than face-to-face interaction. Sometimes it’s the other way around. One advantage of books is that in face-to-face elucidation, the person informing the other person, should he or she become impassioned, may be seen as arguing a political point or proselytizing a religion or attempting to convert to some other type of belief system. Most books—surely not all!—are calm and factual, and one can read them without feeling the need to become defensive.
All of which leads back to why I wrote Passover: Not just to inform Jewish kids who may not understand the history or significance of the holiday, but to inform non-Jewish kids who want to know why their Jewish friends do “weird things” like bringing their lunch sandwiches to school on “big crackers” for a week every spring.
Let’s all read books, web articles from responsible sources, and other materials—but especially books—that can give us insight into other people’s points of view, belief systems, and, yes, religions.
We can all use some better understanding.
When I was a kid, parents and teachers alike decried kids’ reading comic books, asserting that they weren’t “real” books, that kids couldn’t learn from them, that they were “lazy reading,” and more.
My own parents didn’t give me any grief about the comic books I read—mainly Little Lulu, Nancy, Henry, and Donald Duck—because I was such a voracious reader of “real” books that they never had to worry. For economic reasons, they curtailed the number of comics they bought for me, but that was purely a fiscally based decision. It had nothing to do with the value—or alleged danger—of comic books.
When a judge is being urged to give a convicted criminal the harshest sentence possible, he or she is urged to “Throw the book at him/her.”
I say we should ALL “throw books” at people—only, don’t literally THROW the books—please—just GIVE them, gently.
Books are wonderful gifts—for any occasion or no occasion at all.
When I was a kid, my aspirations for my future ran to having a Broadway career. As much as I loved writing and was forever composing poems and such, I was sure my future would be on stage. This may help explain why, at around nine years old, I one day decided out of the blue to write a play.
During the summer that followed, while I was at camp, the drama counselor asked if any of us campers happened to have written a play. My hand shot up and waved wildly. And so it was that my play was put on later on in the season for the younger campers.
Popular TV host Art Linkletter, an icon of afternoon TV in the middle of the last century, had a segment on his show in which he interviewed kids on various topics…and the responses they gave ranged from amazing to hilarious. This led to his compiling some of the best of them in a book he titled KIDS SAY THE DARNEDEST THINGS.
Linkletter was right. They do. And I had proof of it again just yesterday.
I’ve had over 100 books published. (If you’re curious about specifics, I invite you to visit my website at www.cynthiamacgregor.com.) I write for both kids and adults. In the course of promoting some of my books for kids, I visit pre-schools, after-school centers, and other venues that provide me with a young audience.
Yesterday I was at an after-school center, reading to a familiar group of first- and second-graders whom I’ve read to quite a few times before. For reasons irrelevant to this tale, instead of reading one of my own books, as I normally do, I was doing a friend a favor and reading one of his books. I introduced the book saying it was written by “my friend Michael,” and at a couple of other points during some prefatory remarks I reiterated that this was not one of my books but had been written by “my friend Michael.” I showed the kids Michael’s picture, which accompanies his author bio on one of the back pages of the book. Relevant to what I am about to tell you, the picture clearly depicts a Black man. I am White.
Well, I read the book, and it was a short one, so afterward I said, “We have a few minutes left. Let’s talk about future careers. What do you all want to be when you grow up? Raise your hands.”
The first few answers were predictable: Doctor. Teacher. Police officer. Then we got into uncharted waters when two boys each said they wanted to grow up to be “a shark” and a little girl said, “An elephant.”
At that point I thought nothing could top those answers…but I was wrong.
I called on an earnest young fellow with a serious expression and said, “OK, what do YOU want to be when you grow up?” and he answered, “Your brother Michael.”
I gently reminded him that Michael is my FRIEND, NOT MY BROTHER. I marveled at the workings of a child’s mind that he thought he could grow up to become someone’s brother.
But the best part of all was his total color blindness!
Michael, as his picture that the kids all saw made clear, is African-American. I am Caucasian. Yes, it is possible to have siblings of different races—especially if they are only half-sibs by blood, but also if they have one Black parent and one White parent, and one child takes after the Black parent while the other one takes after the White one.
But that doesn’t happen very often. You don’t usually see siblings of differing races.
This kid, however, in no way saw any reason why Michael and I could not be brother and sister. And not a single kid in the group corrected him or made a comment questioning the likelihood of it happening.
God bless “color-blind” kids. I wonder how long he will stay that way? Dare I hope we’re raising a generation of kids who won’t discriminate?
It would be wonderful!