In light of the profound dialogue surrounding Ferguson, I wanted to redirect people’s attention to Walter Dean Myer’s essay, “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?" The essay was published this March, just four months before Myer’s passing.
Myers left a rich legacy of providing young people of color, especially urban youth, with stories and characters in which they could recognize themselves. Why is work like his important?
All too often, young students of color can find few stories that are resonant with their own experiences. Neither can young white students find narratives with perspectives different from their own. The level of identification lost when only one point of view is elevated is tragic. It’s even dangerous.
At the Weekly Writing Workshop, we believe in the importance of helping our students find their voices. Here’s what we are trying to do, and what you can do, too.
1. Read books with perspectives different from your own, and encourage others to do the same. Our series of handwritten book reviews might be a good place for students to start. Just check out the posts tagged with #what we’re reading.
2. Ask for more diverse representation in books. #weneeddiversebooks is a great hashtag to follow.
3. Teach students how to write from their own experiences.
What we often see in our weekly writing class is that our students (mostly Latino) write in a default white voice, because that’s the only voice they’re regularly exposed to. We teach students how to write creative essays from their own experience, and encourage students to write stories that could happen in their own neighborhoods, too.
As some of you may know, the Weekly Writing Workshop (3W) is releasing its first ever anthology of student writing on Monday, August 25. A big reason why we’re doing this is because we want to show our students that their voices matter. We hope you do, too! If you want to read their work, like, follow, or reblog us, and we’ll send you a digital copy when the anthology is released.
If you are a college student, and you’re interested in taking an active role to promote young voices in writing, we encourage you to consider starting a chapter of the Weekly Writing Workshop. Our applications are released on the same day as the anthology—this Monday. By starting a chapter of 3W, you’ll receive training on how to start a creative writing program for grade-school students from under-resourced backgrounds. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the communities around you, and to be part of developing a new generation of young writers.