The last few months have been tough for mirror-books where marginalized readers can find a reflection of themselves, and their history, culture, and joys. In some states these books have been pulled from library shelves and banned from classrooms, which leaves me wondering, “What are we afraid of?”
Because as an educator I have always believed that the point of education is to guide children to become independent, thinking, autonomous adults. People who can hear another’s point of view, observe differences, make inferences, and draw conclusions. These critical thinking skills should be taught not only in the sciences, but especially in the language arts.
The truth is, if you are a diverse reader, you will sometimes read books that make you feel uncomfortable. You might meet some main characters with whom it is hard for you to identify. You might see a point of view that opposes yours. That's okay. Keep reading. Because that is exactly why reading diversely is important. Reading books about characters, circumstances, or paradigms different from yours leads to questions. Hopefully those questions will lead to introspection, conclusions, and greater understanding. And deeper empathy for your neighbor.
Diverse readers become kind people.
Here we are, more than halfway through Black History Month, and I wonder, have you read anything this month that offers a window? Do the kids in your life have access to both windows and mirrors?
Here is a list of my recent reads by black authors or featuring contemporary black main characters. Check them out!
The Me I Choose to Be by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, art by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt
Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C.G. Esperanza
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Rachel Montez Minor, art by Annie Won
Change Sings: a Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman, art by Loren Long
Zuri Ray Tries Ballet by Tami Charles, Art by Sharon Sordo
Me &Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera
A Place Inside of Me by Zetta Elliot, art by Noa Denmon
All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, art by Bryan Collier
Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, Art by Ekua Holmes
Brown Sugar Babe by Charlotte Watson Sherman, art by Akem
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, Tristan Strong Destroys the World, and Tristan Strong Keeps Punching by Kwame Mbalia
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert.
Black Boy Joy edited by Kwame Mbalia
Twins: A Graphic Novel by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright
New Kid by Jerry Craft (The first graphic novel to win a Newbury Award)
Class Act by Jerry Craft
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (All Elizabeth Acevedo’s books are fabulous!)
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Swing and Solo by Kwame Alexander (He also wrote Middle Grade Newbury Winner The Crossover. All his books are fantastic!)
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Yes, you want to read everything (everything!) Nicola Yoon wrote.)
Also check out books by Angie Thomas and Tomi Adeyemi.
To find out more about new books by black authors, sign up for Kwame Mbalia’s Black by Popular Demand newsletter here.
Does your home feel like a place of rest, a peaceful sanctuary where you want to spend time with those you love? As a mother of young children, it can seem near impossible to find rest. Between the practical jobs of cooking and cleaning and teaching and taxiing, and the emotional jobs like therapist, soundboard, referee and voice of reason, resting is that thing you do when you fall down flat on your bed at the end of the day, right? But that isn't very life-giving. Here are a few ways that I have found to restore rest and peace to my household, and make my house truly the home where I want to be.
Practical ways to embrace rest in your home:
1. Make it easy to spend time with God. Keep everything you need in one place so you can grab a few minutes while the kids are napping or playing. I keep my Bible, journal, a pen, pencil and ruler all in on box that can travel with me from room to room. Every day Bible reading, or quiet time is difficult for a mother of young children. A MOPS mentor once told me “God gives young mothers grace”. Embrace that. But never stop trying. And keeping all your tools together, makes a quiet time more attainable.
2. Make room for solitude. In the book Sacred Rhythms Ruth Haley Barton explains solitude as “being with what is real in my life – to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness.” This is not a time of fixing, it is simply a time of inner-stocktaking and laying that stock before God. When my second child was a baby, my solitude came with night feedings. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was just the only time of the day where I was sitting still in a quiet room. But it was very sweet and I often lingered long after my little one had drifted off to sleep. I recently met a mom who takes a monthly day retreat. She goes off to a quiet place by herself for the day - not to run errands, but to reconnect with herself, to be mindful of her emotions and thoughts, and to set her priorities for the coming month.
3. You set the tone in your house. As mothers we have the power to dial down the noise in our children’s lives. Setting good examples and boundaries when they are young, will shape their future habits. Here are few peace thieves and ways to deal with them:
5. Bust time wasters such as Facebook or other social media. (Perhaps moms also need jars with pom-poms?) Spending too much time on social media is never refreshing. It may be helpful to designate one 20-minute miracle towards that. Can you identify other areas in your life where you waste away time that you could have spent doing something life-giving?
6. Control your schedule, don’t let it control you. If you set the pace while your children are young, that will become their normal. Dr. James Dobson from Focus on the Family advises two activities per child per year. Andy Stanly in Parental Guidance Required says, “In our culture, parents often feel pressured to give their children just the right package of experiences. As a result, many children grow up experience-rich and relationship-poor…When it matters most the quality of your relationship with your children will determine the weight of your influence.” If you don’t spend time building relationship when your children are young, you will not have influence when they are teenagers. Relationship building takes time and effort and is hard to achieve rushing from one activity to the next. Let’s be mindful to create time for rest in our children’s schedules.
7. Be prepared. For example, plan meals around the family calendar so you are sure to keep the more involved dinners for evenings when you are not running around.
8. But be flexible. Meal plans and recipes are merely suggestions. Some days our best plans get derailed. Having the capacity to take such a derailment in your stride, adds to a restful atmosphere in your house.
9. Make it a priority to rest together as a family. Having dinner together is a great time to reconnect as a family. It is easy to extend this together time with a quick board game after dinner or sharing funny or heart-warming picture books.
10. Rest with your mate. When our kids are in bed, my husband and I sit down together on the couch with a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate. We rest and unwind together. Every day. This is my favorite part of the day. Make sure some of your resting and recreation include your mate.
Healthy rhythms in your house provide time to work, rest and play. And as we do those things that nurture our souls, we gain the resilience to parent patiently with love and grace.