“One winter morning Peter woke up and looked out the window. Snow had fallen during the night. It covered everything as far as he could see.”-Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day
The author/illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats has always hit a home run in the elementary school classroom. His stories, seemingly simple with simple illustrations appealed to children from all over the world. I’m sure they still do. “Ezra grew up and lived in New York City, where he saw children of different races and nationalities every day. And as the child of struggling immigrant parents, Ezra knew what it meant to feel like an outsider. When he was a young man, he happened to see a series of photos in a magazine of a little boy who was black about to get an injection. Ezra kept these pictures for many years without knowing why they were so important to him. When he decided to write and illustrate his own picture book, it struck him that all the children’s books he had ever seen were filled with white children. That was when he realized why he had kept those pictures. This little boy was going to be the hero of Ezra’s book, and, in a way, to represent Ezra in the world of his own childhood.”-ezrajackkeats.org
I was a teacher who taught about all cultures in my classroom and didn’t limit my lessons to particular months, i.e. February is Black History Month…March is Women’s History Month…October is Hispanic American Month…May is Asian Pacific Heritage Month and so on. In a way, the designations of teaching certain cultures during specific months forced teachers to at least get a lesson in on that particular culture/race/heritage. There are classrooms that would never get even one lesson if not for those assigned months…sad to say.
This month, personally, gives me the opportunity to revisit writers, artists, philosophers, entertainers, sports legends, actors and so on that I have admired for oh so many years. Today I choose writer/observer James Baldwin and writer Nella Larsen of the Harlem Renaissance era. I used to love listening to James Baldwin when he was interviewed…the tone of his voice was mesmerizing and he never held back. I’ve read everything he wrote and ditto for Nella Larsen who doesn’t have a large body of work.
Here’s what Baldwin had to say about education many, many years ago: