Don’t have favorites. That’s the advice we get as parents (referring to our children). But, is it possible to have favorites among adults?
It is! And, Mr. Porter is one of my favorites.
Let me be clear: When I was growing up, I did not like going to the library. Unlike my sister who got lost in libraries, taking her imagination from historic battlefields to fantastic journeys to outer space to Victorian era parties, I pretty much just got lost in libraries. Literally (pun intended). I was the kid who went to the library and who kept getting up to go to the bathroom, only to get absolutely lost because, let’s face it, every single stack, row and column looked exactly the same. But, my sister never noticed I was lost. You guessed it, she was busy reading.
In college, I was the one who went to the library to hang out.
In grad school,
I went to the library …. I never went to the library.
By the time I was in my doctoral studies, “the library” was online.
Now, as a parent, when I want to spend time with the children, we go to the movies or an amusement park or head to the playground. When my sister spends time with the children, they go to the library.
As a teacher and educator at Park School, the library is at the heart of the building. Within just a few days of school starting, Mr. Porter told me that he had lots and lots of books for me to read. “Picture books,” he clarified. “They are just really interesting and I thought you should know about them.” It took me three weeks to get through those picture books.
Since Mr. Porter’s first special delivery of books, he occasionally pops in and shares new books with me. And, because of my work, these books usually address a cultural identifier: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, family structure, ability.
Mr. Porter has so much wonderful insight into books, identity-conscious literature, and ways to engage families. But, one comment stood out to me early on; Mr. Porter told me that “There is a trend in the type of books that never get checked out of the library. Those usually have pictures of children of color on the front.” Gasp. Really? This was so difficult to understand because the general rule in my own home is that books must have characters from diverse backgrounds.
Over time, Mr. Porter, along with his awesome colleagues, have been intentional about providing culturally engaging literature. But, only today did I learn about a special program he runs: The Purple Backpacks.
About once a month, Mr. Porter selects a special book for each kindergartner. Sometimes, these books have a theme (e.g., Black issues or characters during Black History Month; books about gender during Women’s History Month) and sometimes these are just fun books. He also created a family-fun opportunity — the students can only open the backpacks when they get home and do a big reveal!
I love this idea.
If you are reading this post, and not lucky enough to have a “Mr. Porter” at your school, you certainly can create a similar program in your own family or school:
- Pick up a different book each week or month.
- Ask a staff member at your library to recommend a “great book that doesn’t always get checked out.”
- Get ideas by looking up “national heritage months” or “awareness weeks” and discussing these themes with your family.
- Do a “big reveal” with your own family to create some excitement!
Keep up the great work, Mr. Porter!
Peace and Park,