5 great TED Talks about children’s literature

I got hooked on TED Talks over the weekend.

Despite the fact I kept telling myself, “Just one more, and then I’m going to stop watching these,” I kept watching. (No regrets.)

Below are five talks about children’s literature worth a listen. It will be an hour and 10 minutes well spent.

Can a Children’s Book Change the World? (12:42)

Sue Park talks about reading for the development of empathy.

“Can a book help make a reader a better human being?” Park asks.

Spoiler alert: Yes, it can. Park explains how books like “A Long Walk to Water,” “Wonder,” “Crenshaw” and “All-American Boys” can help young readers understand others with different life experiences … and find in themselves the power to fight against the world’s unfairness.

The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Book Shelf (12:23)

What happens if you never see anyone in a book who looks like you?

Grace Lin discusses how she grew up as the only Asian student in her elementary school. “It seemed like there was nobody that looked like me anywhere,” Lin says. Not at school, in movies, on TV, in magazine … and not in books.

She discusses the bigger picture of denying her heritage in an effort to blend in … and growing up to rediscover her heritage by writing the books she wished she had as a child. Her novel, which stars a minority main character, went on to win a Newbery Medal. The book gives young Asian American readers mirrors to see themselves in literature, and it gives other readers a window into the life of a minority protagonist.

Missing Adventures: Diversity and Children’s Literature (16:20)

Purchasing children’s books is a source of frustration — and even trepidation — for Brynn Welch. That’s because she has a hard time finding books that feature characters who look like her son, who is black. Of 3,200 children’s books received by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2015, only 240 had a black protagonist. Fewer than 80 starred Latinos, and fewer than 30 featured Native Americans. Only 16 percent of children’s books that year featured people of color.

“Most of us don’t notice who’s not there,” Welch said. Until someone points it out, anyway.

It matters who children see represented in children’s literature, she says. She discusses gaps she has found in children’s literature and where she would like to see better, more diverse representation.

Why We Should All be Reading Aloud to Children (9:30)

Rebecca Bellingham, as a teacher and a mother, has read a lot of books aloud to children. To her experience, it’s rare for children not to enjoy the chance to hear a story and “get inside a book.”

Bellingham talks about the impact reading aloud has on young readers’ independent reading lives.

Inspiration Through Children’s Literature (17:35)

Children’s literature has something to offer to readers at many stages of their lives, including adulthood. This video is a bit lower quality than the previous ones listed above, but it’s also my favorite (especially since there’s the bonus of Drew Vodrey reading a children’s book aloud during the presentation, complete with fantastically giddy laughter).

Vodrey describes children’s literature as a Rorschach test for our lives and touches on how we touch back to kid lit and its lessons throughout our lives.

“Don’t discard children’s literature as something simple,” Vodrey says.

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