I am thrilled to have a guest post at Reading While White, one of my go-to resources for my ongoing learning in the field of children’s literature. In it I write about teaching a course I designed at Simmons, CHL 434 The Child and the Book. I’ve taught it several times over the years, but last fall was one of my favorite teaching experiences ever because I had such an amazing group of students. A moment that stands out is the heart of my RWW post:
The most recent time I taught this class, I paused the discussion after a student said she was struggling with how to reconcile her fond childhood memories of co-reading the books with her mother and her contemporary recognition of how the series perpetuates ideologies that are abhorrent to her.“I feel bad saying I love these books despite their racism,” she said.“Then don’t say that,” I told her. “Say you love them alongside their racism and then interrogate what that means for you as a White reader.”I don’t think this directive made her feel less “bad,” but that wasn’t my goal. Some of the best learning can happen when students become uncomfortable with their readings and must interrogate them.
Another reason I loved teaching that course was that I’d spent a lot of time revising the syllabus the prior summer, and ass a part of this revision I did a diversity audit of assigned scholarship and literary texts to make sure that I was walking the walk of teaching an inclusive course. I do this for all of my courses each semester to hold myself accountable. The photo above is of some of the books I (re)read over the summer of 2016 to prepare for the course. I didn’t end up including all of them, but they were all important to my course development.
Right now I’m pretty much only reading student papers, but my reading pile is growing quickly for the coming year when I’ll be on maternity leave in the fall and then sabbatical in the spring of 2018. I’ll miss teaching, but I know that all of the reading and writing I do over this next year will make subsequent courses even better.