KIdlit always fights bias, and today is definitely a day to stand up. Today is #JewishandProud day. This is a time when members of the Jewish community are encouraged to publicly display Jewish identity and faith in the face of ongoing and escalating anti-Semitic violence in this country and around the world. A recent survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee found that 31% of respondents reported feeling uncomfortable wearing or displaying anything would identify them as Jewish. That’s 31% too many people who are afraid to show pride in or belonging to or respect for the tenets of their faith because of a world that isn’t fighting back hard enough to stamp out hate.
Kidlit fights bias — and we here at MUF are committed to inclusiveness and diversity. We stand with our Jewish family. Furthermore, in order to support and be an ally of the Jewish community, I’m dedicating my post to a wonderful anti-bias children’s book list maintained by the Anti-Defamation League.
What is the ADL?
I think most are aware of the ADL, but for those who haven’t had the chance to become acquainted with them, they’re an advocacy and education organization dedicated to creating a country where discrimination is a thing of the past. Their mission statement envisions stopping “…the defamation of the Jewish people, and (securing) … justice and fair treatment to all.” To be clear: their scope is all-inclusive—they lobby for anti-bias and anti-discrimination laws for ALL underrepresented groups, run education programs in schools to help fight hate speech and bullying, and work in all aspects of criminal justice reform, from sentencing procedures to law enforcement training.
As part of their work in education, they provide extensive programs and training for educators, parents, and families: this is where the booklist comes in.
“Books Matter” is an incredible book list and resource for fighting bias and hate. It’s carefully curated by subject, pulling together the best kid lit on diversity and social justice. You have a choice of 11 sections for book suggestions, with subjects such as Jewish culture and anti-Semitism, and also bias, discrimination, and hate.
ADL Assistant Education Director Michelle Magner notes that “Educators and families can use books with their students and children as a mirror to affirm who they are and enable them to see themselves portrayed with accuracy, depth, and complexity. Books can also be used as a window to teach children about people with whom they are unfamiliar which can lead to understanding and building bridges. Both mirror and window books can build empathy which is such an important tool in combating intolerance. ”
Each section includes options from picture books to young adult, and each book suggests an appropriate reader age range.
Among the many drill-down features includes a “book of the month” section; this month it’s Jacquelyn Woodson’s HARBOR ME.
Each book of the month selection is accompanied by coordinated lesson plans for classrooms as well as suggested tools and strategies for difficult conversations.
The ADL is committed to the belief that books are a critical component in the effort to create a more tolerant, just world. Having a list like this and resources available to help us all in that mission gives us better, stronger tools, and also a sense that we’re not alone.
KidLit Community Can Help
What I love about lists like this is that they’re always growing. And we can be part of that! For those of you MUFers who are also authors … keep writing, keep adding to that body of literature! For inspiration, read here for Jonathan Rosen’s recap of the TENT program for Jewish children’s literature, And … here’s an interview with author Leslie Kimmelman, who also went to Israel. Waiting eagerly to see what comes of her inspiration from that trip!
But even if you can’t travel, you can support authors by reading their work and supporting it publicly. You can be part of conversations that push back against hate and bias. You can refuse to accept a biased, intolerant world, and instead model a society that includes, accepts, and celebrates all religions, ethnicities, races, genders, and sexual identities.