Tonight I finally got a chance to watch this week’s Grey’s Anatomy. The story line has a young black man lock himself out of his house and as he is climbing in his window, the cops assume he is breaking in and shoot him. You can guess how the story ends.
If I had watched this episode a couple years ago, it would have been just another story. Tonight I’m fighting back tears and totally feeling for parents who have to teach their children exactly what to do when they get pulled over by the police to avoid tragedy.
What changed? I still live in the predominately white-world I have always lived in. I don’t have much glimpse into lives of people who look different than I do.
I’m sure many of you get tired of hearing me talk about reading and books and literacy but guess what, books changed my perspective. Books make me a better person. Books give me empathy and compassion for those that look like me and those who don’t. Books like these…
I would not say that books like the ones I read in the past few years make me “understand” anything. I will never understand what it’s like for someone to assume the worst in me just because of my skin color.
So when you hear me preaching about getting kids (and everyone else too) to read more, it’s not about job security, it’s about making this world a better place. It’s about learning about people and places that are different than who and where you are. It’s about teaching our children that everyone has a story and their story is important. It’s so much bigger than a student meeting a reading requirement or my job security. Books take us places we cannot go on our own. They teach us things that our own lives might not lend themselves to teach us.
This is Jason Reynolds, my favorite author (right now). I had the pleasure of meeting him at AASL in Phoenix in November. I was so excited to meet him for one reason. I wanted to tell him what his books mean to me. I wanted to tell him how he makes me a better person. I wanted to tell him that he makes me a better librarian when I put his books in students’ and wait anxiously for them to return and tell me what they thought of it. One student at a time, I hope I’m helping to make the world a better place for my students. I got to tell him all of that and I hope as he gave me a big hug, he felt the deep appreciation I have for him and many others who write books with strong characters who are up against all the odds.
I challenge you to read outside your comfort zone. Maybe I challenge you to just READ, if it’s been awhile. Take a literary trip into the Holocaust, be a refugee running for your life, feel what’s it like to get pulled over by the cops just because of your color. I’m a fiction girl but I can still learn through the pages of my books and if you need a good suggestion…let me know. I can hook you up!