Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Teaching values through literature

In many ways, landisdad and I face the same challenges that are faced by set of parents who both work outside the home. (Well, okay, I mostly telecommute, but the challenges haven't changed that much since I've been working at home.) We juggle the daycare and school pickups against our need to work late nights sometimes. We slide in calls to the doctor's office to schedule annual check ups while we're on the clock. We fight rush hour traffic, hoping to make it to the meeting on time. And we balance the competing demands of home and work, which causes us to lose sleep, because we're always remembering one last thing to do right before bed time.

But there's one major way that we're different from many other families. We both work as organizers, in movements for social and economic justice. And as part of our talking to our kids about work, and the need for us to not be home all the time, we need to give them the larger context of the work we do. It's not always easy to explain to my children why I need to go to one more community meeting, or why landisdad is wearing a suit today. The advantage that we have is that kids seem to have an innate sense about what's fair, and what's not fair, and we are able to describe our work in a way that lets them know that we are on the side of restoring fairness.

There are a number of books that I've collected over the past six years that help us with these explanations. One of the Bee's favorite books when she was about three was Si Se Puede, a book about the janitor's strike in Los Angeles told in Spanish & English from the point of view of the son of a striking janitor. The refrain of the book is, of course, "Se puede? Si se puede!" (loosely translated: "Can we do it {win the strike}? Yes we can!"). For a few weeks, she would walk into daycare every day shouting "Si se puede!" I can only imagine what the daycare teachers thought.

Some of our other favorite books that emphasize the positive value of collective action include Click Clack Moo, Harvesting Hope: The Cesar Chavez Story, and Swimmy. There are a number of other books that we've bought that the Bee isn't quite ready for yet, including Missing From Haymarket Square, and Witnesses to Freedom, about young people who fought for civil rights in the south.

It's important to me to be able to tell the stories of social change to my kids in a way that doesn't leave
out the organizing involved in winning those changes. There was a day last winter (during Black History month, natch) that the Bee came home and told us about how she had learned at school that day that Rosa Parks got arrested for sitting down on a bus, "and she was just tired!" I almost cried, because I know that too many people--especially whitefolks--think that, and I don't want my kids to be among them. I don't expect kindergarteners to understand the enormously difficult decision that Rosa Parks had to make when she decided to get arrested that day, but I do expect them to be taught that she made the decision.

I know that for myself, my own life has been enormously expanded by reading about the struggles that different groups of people have gone through, at different moments in our history. I've blogged before about the influence that books about Nellie Bly and Malcolm X have had on me, and about the reading I continue to do about the history of social change. I'm really grateful for the books I've mentioned above, and others too numerous to mention, that are helping me teach that history to my kids.

• Posted By landismom @ 7/27/2005 05:06:00 PM
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  2. a thought for Wednesday VII
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