My first blogpost is about biography in picture books. Almost all biographies are about a single person who overcame difficulties and achieved his or her dreams. The message we send to children is that individuals, with persistence and determination, can soar. But this isn’t always true. There are obstacles in our society that are so structural and deep, such as racism and sexism, that putting the onus on the individual seems unfair and perhaps unrealistic.
I suggest an alternative biography. Why not write about communities or organizations where people work together and cooperate to create change? This is, in fact, historically true, if we think about disenfranchised communities. My historical work on African-American communities in Chicago has pointed to women working together through clubs, political organizations, and community institutions to effect change.
Such an approach might encourage children to think more broadly about politics, social change, and working together and perhaps across differences. Such an approach might feature several persons, not just one, who were catalysts. Children would also learn how organizational change occurs, how people come together to demand change!