Stories from the Storybarn supporting Liverpool Against Racism Festival
Saturday 23 April marked the start of Liverpool's first ever Liverpool Against Racism Festival. It gave us a chance to reflect on The Reader's ongoing work around using great literature to spark conversations about racism and how we can strive to be an anti-racist organisation.
In the Storybarn we’ve chosen a selection of our favourite books for children and young people written and illustrated by people of colour.
Our picture book choice for readers of all ages is the marvellous Antiracist Baby pairing Ashley Lukashevsky’s gorgeous illustrations with a powerful and important message: what does it mean to be antiracist? Explained in nine thoughtful and playful steps, this books opens the door to start having conversations about racism with children from an early age.
For families with pre-schoolers and primary school aged children we have chosen two fabulous picture books, Watercress and The Proudest Blue.
Andrea Wang and Jason Chin’s picture book Watercress is not just visually beautiful but really sensitively zooms in on being a child of immigrant parents. A young American girl is embarrassed that her Chinese mother gathers wild watercress from the roadside, but she soon realises that food can carry many memories and learns to appreciate her family’s past.
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali and the most stunning illustrations from Hatem Aly is a powerful story about strength and sisterhood – when not everyone at school seems to understand that her big sister’s new hijab is beautiful, Faizah remembers her mother’s words and finds acceptance and understanding.
For older readers we have three excellent choices – all brilliant for sharing aloud, and each exploring racism in the context of specific locations and periods of time.
Freedom by Catherine Johnson was one of last year's Cheltenham Festivals Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils books and is perfect for Year 5 & 6 classrooms. Set against the backdrop of London in 1783, this adventure story about a young enslaved boy who voyages from Jamacia but dreams of escape is a great jumping off point for exploring the part Britain played in the transportation of people across the globe.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is the YA novel the Children and Young People's Team are reading together weekly in their own Shared Reading group. Starr is the only witness when her best friend Khalil is shot to death by a police officer – but her and Khalil are black, and the officer is white, and immediately everything in Starr’s life is turned on its head. This is a gripping and emotional story about race, community and equality.
And finally, A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr, a semi-autobiographical, big-hearted novel explores immigration, grief, and racism; pitched perfectly at slightly older readers. Everything is scary and confusing for Meixing in the New Land. She experiences a sudden tragedy and her new house really does have a mind of its own; but in her magical glasshouse of stars, she finds a place to dream, real friends, and finally herself.
We’re proud that every family we welcome in the Storybarn can find themselves represented somewhere in the stories on our shelves, and that these books are just a small taster of what’s on offer.
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