Liz Garton Scanlon: Soul Reflecting 101

Guest Post by Austin Author Liz Garton Scanlon

This is the third week in a series of author guest posts about diversity in children’s literature and the BookPeople Modern First Library initiative. For more about BookPeople’s Modern First Library initiative, and for more recommendations of wonderful new and classic picture books to read, visit bookpeople.com. 

Previous posts in this series:
Chris Barton: A Modern First Library List
Chris Barton: Loved, valued, unique? Yes. Center of the universe?
Cynthia Leitich Smith: Books as mirrors
Cynthia Leitich Smith: This book is for you

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At our beloved neighborhood school, you can find kids who speak Spanish, kids on the autism spectrum, and kids who have two moms; kids whose parents are divorced, kids who spend every summer with family in India, and kids who are differently-abled; kids with dyslexia, kids from interracial families, and kids who were adopted; kids who wear glasses, headgear and back braces, kids who check their own blood sugar, and kids who receive free lunch; kids who have peanut allergies, kids who have asthma, and kids who have seizures; kids of all shapes, sizes, colors, and families of origin.

You can likely find these kids at a school near you too, because diverse does not mean rare, uncommon or atypical. It just means varied, which is not that different from what defines all humanity, when you think about it.

Varied kids are, first and foremost, just kids. Kids you’ll find everywhere, but who may or may not be able to find themselves in (or on the covers of) books. Too many of them could search their own libraries high and low without ever finding an accurate reflection of their skin color, their circumstances or their stories.

George Bernard Shaw said, “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” Yikes. Soul revelation. That’s a big job, probably more than most artists signed up for. But maybe if we get more comfortable with how similar all kids are in heart and soul, we’ll get more courageous about revealing – and reflecting – their differences, the things that make them not just unique, but interesting. Art-worthy, even. And then maybe, finally, we’ll end up with a little piece of glass for each and everyone to see themselves in. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

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ELIZABETH GARTON SCANLON is a poet, writer, and teacher. She is the author of the highly-acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Ms. Scanlon is assistant professor of creative writing at Austin Community College and is a frequent & popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two daughters.

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