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March extracurriculars: Library Legislation and Literacy as Liberation

Last week I took two field trips away from the office (three, counting A Wrinkle in Time). Tuesday, March 6th, was Library Legislative Day at the Massachusetts State House in downtown Boston (across from the old, old Horn Book office on Beacon Hill; and look at it this week during the #NationalSchoolWalkout protest!). I went to Library Legislative Day with my children’s school librarian, Liz Phipps Soeiro, legislative co-chair of the Massachusetts School Library Association. There was a lot to take away from the day, but to talk numbers, I learned that library funding is a mere 0.06% of the state budget, and that already-meager budget for libraries has been pretty steadily (and dramatically) falling throughout this century.

School librarian Judy Paradis presented the The Massachusetts School Library Study: Equity and Access for Students in the Commonwealth, a multiyear academic study examining school library access throughout the state. To make a long story short: “school library programs for students are NOT equitable in Massachusetts.” Next on the schedule was “Visit Your Legislators,” and Liz and I met with State Representative Marjorie Decker and shared our stories about the importance of libraries (she gets it). Follow hashtag #MAlibleg18 for more — and contact your own reps with your own tales from the library.

Conference program art by Rufus Faulk.

On Saturday, March 10th, I attended the first annual Boston Network for Black Student Achievement conference, organized by the Literacy Subcommittee to further the Books for Black Children & Youth initiative: “Literacy Is Liberation: Examining the Transformative Power of Literacy, Book Clubs & Literary Societies in the African American Community” held at the John D. O’Bryant Institute at Northeastern University. Friend of The Horn Book Dr. Kim Parker presented a workshop on “African American Literature for Black Boys: PreK–12” (she also led a 2017 Horn Book at Simmons breakout session on the topic). Friend of The Horn Book Monique Harris, with Nicholl Montgomery, talked about “Developing Family Book Clubs: From the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday to Women’s History Month” (as my own child can attest, snacks are key!). Simmons College next-door neighbor and colleague in the Africana Studies department Dr. Theresa Perry discussed “Enslavement in African American Children’s Literature: From Oppression to Resistance and Resiliency.” Civil rights activist Robert Moses (!) and Maisha Moses; Dr. Nettrice Gaskins; Shirley Jones Luke; and Dr. Jarvis Givens rounded out the talks; Leonard Egerton from the Frugal Bookstore was there selling books — and the much-anticipated “Recommended African American Children’s Books” poster, compiled by Friend of The Horn Book and frequent contributor Dr. Jonda McNair (see upcoming May/June Horn Book Magazine article with Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop on the Brownies’ Book). Every workshop was packed with people — adults and very engaged young adults — eager to dig into the theme “Literacy Is Liberation.” Search the hashtag #LitIsLib2018 for more — there’s a great photo gallery by Larry Aaronson over on Facebook that really captured the day.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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