Telling our Real Story

The call for #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WeNeedDiverseAuthors can be heard loudly over social media and has been gaining increased publicity lately. And why not, the more this issue is discussed the more it can be made apparent that a lack of diverse views and people in literature isn’t an honest portrayal. And there is no other time more influential when the diversity of characters is needed than for children and young adults.

These feelings were sparked after reading an article in the Huffington Post, “It’s Hard to Be What you Can’t See”. The article examines representation in children’s books and finds that “even as the number of Americans of color has continued to grow rapidly, the percentage of books reflecting them has not: with the annual total hovering around 10 percent” since studies began in 1994. The article goes on to reiterate the fact that not only is it important for children to feel accurately represented in the books that they read but for everyone to be able to embrace the diversity around them.

At some point it becomes important to think about what message we are passing to children by not allowing them to identify with images while simultaneously encouraging them to read. Are we creating the best space for children to feel encouraged in learning? Not simply whether we are tolerant of other cultures, colors and conformities, but are we really open to learning from others, crying and laughing with others and representing our true selves?

We desperately want all children to aspire to be strong compassionate and understanding adults. We want all children to be able to see a life for themselves beyond K-12, and college, but is there a vision for them to focus on? Are there narratives within literature that can help to inspire them?

We must highlight the importance of more diverse books in order to show the real story.

 

5 Types of Books for Kids

It’s known that exposing children to reading at an early age will help enhance their neurological, psychological, linguistic and social development. As a parent, educator, librarian, or community-leader, you might wonder what types of books are best to boost this development.

Here are five of my favorite types of books to encourage literacy and inspire a love of reading:

  1.  Books That Match a Child’s Interests

It’s enjoyable to read about topics that align with your own interests. Hearing this seems like common sense but it may be somediverse-poetry-1-400x597thing that we forget when picking out books on behalf of children. Asking a child what topics they would like to learn more about is a great way to allow their voice to be heard, express themselves, and explore aspects of their identity.

 

  1. Poetry Books

Poetry is a powerful means of presenting a story as it speaks right to the emotions of the reader. For kids, learning the power of words when arranged in a certain manner will lay the foundation not just for creative wording but for other forms of imaginative thinking.

 

  1. Books You Enjoyed When You Were Young9780060254926

First of all, there is no guarantee that a child will like all the books you did. However, there is always that curiosity of wanting to know why you loved a particular book, what it is that drew you in, and what they can possibly get from it. This adds a whole new layer of attraction.

 

  1. Books that are a Little Advanced for their Level

From board books to picture books, then chapter books and beyond. A kid might be ready for a more advanced type of book at any time. A good way to uncover their advancement is to expose children to books that are a bit higher level for their age. When they are ready, they will just find themselves not putting the book down.

 

  1. Board Books

For the very youngest who might not have a clue whether a book is some kind of treat or something to practice their board-books-ripping skills on, a board book is the best place to start. It will (hopefully) withstand all their destructive attempts, and it is easy for the kid’s tiny hands to interact with books for the first time during a read-to-me session.

 

 

These are just some types of books that will give children an affirmative early experience with literature, positively affecting different aspects of their development and encouraging future use of books. You can read up on other types of books that children should be exposed to in this article, which inspired this post. Can you think of any other types of beneficial children’s books not on the list?

Help Give Books to Chicago Youth

We’re helping an ultra at-risk youth baseball organization in Chicago called Lost Boyz to raise $5,000 for the purchase of quality books and educational materials to supplement their after-school tutoring services.

These kids, ages 4-18, live in the South Shore Neighborhood in Chicago.

LaVonté Stewart, a former college baseball player, founded Lost Boyz to use baseball and softball as a positive deterrent to gang violence during the Chicago summers. LaVonté tells the story of having to stop one youth game while a man chased another man through center field with a handgun.

Against this level of odds, Lost Boyz has managed to grow in five years from one Little League team to four boys teams and a new girls softball team.

Now, Lost Boyz is looking to increase influence with their kids by acquiring space in their neighborhood for an after-school library and tutoring center.

As many of you know, Experience Baseball has partnered with Lost Boyz for the past three seasons, hosting kids and family members to press box seats for Chicago White Sox baseball games and donating proceeds from our educational baseball lectures directly to Lost Boyz.

This year, to help get Lost Boyz started with a new center and library, we’re trying to help raise funds to purchase books, a few shelves, and educational subscriptions for Lost Boyz.

If you are able, there are three things that can truly help us out:

Chicago library South Side Baseball Lost Boyz

Boys from Lost Boyz at an Experience Baseball event at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on July 3, 2015.

Everything is tax-deductible.

We’ve spent time getting to know many of the kids over the last three years and they’re a hilarious, playful bunch of baseball fans who love their White Sox!

It’s difficult to think about how many of these kids have not had the same chances others have to access the books that instill love of reading and learning or to gather to play baseball “at the school” without fear of violence.

Lost Boyz is changing all that. And we’d like to help.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me directly at tobias@experiencebaseball.org.

Sincerely,

Toby

P.S. If you would like to learn more about Lost Boyz, you can visit their website and follow them on Twitter.

Happy World Literacy Day from Experience Baseball!

Today marks International Literacy Day, established by UNESCO in 1965. Literacy Day aims to highlight the importance of literacy around the world. As per UNESCO’s website, “Literacy skills are the prerequisite for the learning of a broader set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, required for creating sustainable societies.”

Literacy is still a major education initiative even in developed countries like the United States. A recent article in The Guardian highlighted the worldwide problem of illiteracy and the ways in which it negatively affects people’s lives and overall progress of a country.  The article, citing a report by the World Literacy Foundation, state; “People in rich and poor countries are “trapped in a cycle of poverty with limited opportunities for employment or income generation” because of illiteracy, the report said.”

In Chicago, the importance of improving literacy is also pertinent. In 2012, the Department of Education reported that 79% of the 8th graders in the Chicago Public Schools are not grade-level proficient in reading. While 53% of adults in the city have low or limited literacy skills, according to Literacy Chicago.

There is no doubt that the seeds of education are planted at an early age with simple things, like reading and access to libraries. Not only vital to literacy development and language skills, it also nurtures curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. Still a huge inequality remains for children of low-income families and communities. Children in low-income areas often do not have access to quality reading materials, which creates an education gap that is difficult to mend.

Experience Baseball is taking steps to help educate and empower youth as we work to build a library for Chicago-based nonprofit, Lost Boyz Inc.  Lost Boyz Inc. was founded in 2008, and similar to our focus, also feature organized sports programs and youth outreach as a way to reduce violence, provide opportunities, and teach important life skills. The Lost Boyz Library Project will provide another avenue of community outreach and provide educational opportunities for the children that they serve in South Chicago.

You can help with our initiative by donating directly to our cause by using the Paypal button on the Experience Baseball homepage. You can also purchase books directly from our Amazon Wish list and have them sent to Lost Boyz Inc. We will be updating this blog with important milestones about this project so be sure to check back or sign up for our email newsletter.

We hope to make a library available to these children to enforce then mentality the reading, education, and ultimately success is available to them.