Friday, July 24th, 2009

a ten-year-old controversy

Writing about Linda Capone-Newton’s June training reminded me that while we used to distribute an article from “Newsweek” about the controversy surrounding the Nappy Hair book in every Many Eyes, Many Voices training, there’s no longer any guarantee that this 10-year-old story will get discussed. That’s okay—there are many other connections to current events that can be made during Many Eyes, Many Voices agenda. Still, it would be good for those of you who aren’t familiar with the controversy to read about it. (The controversy resurfaced briefly in 2007, when conservative radio personality Don Imus got into trouble for talking about “nappy hair” in reference to Rutgers women’s basketball players. It’s unlikely to ever fade completely.) The Newsweek article is not available online, but there’s an archived piece from a publication at California State University, Chico, where author Carolivia Herron taught literature at the time. Searching the New York Times website for the teacher’s name, Ruth Sherman, also yields some archived coverage. Trainers who wish to incorporate Nappy Hair should contact us to make a special request for copies of the book and/or the Newsweek article.

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Many Eyes, Many Voices in Scarborough

Linda Capone-Newton facilitated this small training in late June. The group included pairs of colleagues from three centers who were more inclined to talk to one another than to people they didn’t know, so the main challenge for Linda was to get the discussion flowing more freely. She found that Nappy Hair prompted good discussion.

Participants left Linda’s training excited about “new books and different ways to use books to bring diversity into the classroom.” One planned to “talk to my center director about new books.” Another said she’d “offer a lot of diversity throughout the classroom and be aware of the tough questions that might come.” A center manager intended to “organize resources for teachers to be able to access them.” 100% of the participants said they’d recommend the training to a colleague! Perhaps that why our next Many Eyes, Many Voices training, which is more than a month away, is already filled to capacity…

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

defining prosocial behavior

At our trainer reflection retreat in March, the evaluation materials for Peaceable Stories raised questions about the meaning of the term “prosocial behavior.” An article in the newest issue of Young Children has this to say:

Many classic definitions of prosocial behavior are similar to Eisenberg’s [The Caring Child, Harvard 1992], who describes it as ‘voluntary behavior intended to benefit another, such as helping, sharing, and comforting’ (p. 3). Some scholars stumble over the word intended when it concerns infants and toddlers, saying babies are incapable of being prosocial because even if they do something socially positive, it is unlikely to be altruistic (that is, deliberately selfless). The behaviors of the babies in high-quality classrooms—friendship, sharing, caring, rule following,. helpfulness, cooperation, and many others—may or may not satisfy the test for being truly altruistic, but they were certainly pro- rather than antisocial. Antisocial behavior involves showing disregard for others or being uncooperative or disagreeable. People who are antisocial are potentially destructive to themselves or the community.

We offer a different definition of prosocial behaviors, one that avoids notions of intention or motivation. We define prosocial behaviors for babies in a group setting as the communications and behaviors on the part of a baby that help create a positive emotional climate in the group and that involve reaching out—positive, discernable, outward social expression on the part of one baby toward one or more other inviduals, whether infant or adult.

–from “Learning to Be Me While Coming to Understand We: Encouraging Prosocial Babies in Group Settings” by Maria McMullen et al. (Young Children 64.4, July 2009, pp. 22-28)

What do you think of this definition? Does it clarify anything for you? (The full article is available online, at least for now, if you want to see the quote in context.)

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Peaceable Stories in Ellsworth and Presque Isle

Born to Read ushered in the month of June with back-to-back trainings in Hancock and Aroostook counties. Linda Levesque, the facilitator in Ellsworth, started her training with a handout from the Center for Nonviolent Communication to convey the variety of words to describe emotions. (The list of words is also available online.) One participant had already talked with her 3-year-olds about other words to describe angry feelings. They learned a new word, “outraged,” which they liked and have repeated often.

After reading If Peace Is… (a book which has, sadly, gone out of print), another participant shared an anecdote about a boy who said peace was a shark. Why? Well, his teacher knew that this boy loves the ocean and its creatures. He had recently visited the New England Aquarium, and his parents said he stood for very long time just gazing at the big fish tank at sharks and other fish swimming around and around.

The Ellsworth group was also very positive about Who’s In Rabbit’s House? —a book that is rarely so well received. Linda reported that many participants were familiar with this story and already considered it one of their favorites, which provides evidence for our hunch that with this book, “practice makes perfect.”

At the training in Presque Isle, co-facilitated by Karen Campbell-Sawyer and Susan Giggey-Bergeron, participants had compelling interpretations of peace. One noted that as a concept, peace is largely culturally defined. Another said, “children need to feel valued and safe in order to be peaceful.” Discussion also yielded the observation that “sometimes it’s better for adults to stay out of [conflict], listen to the children and assess how they are doing before jumping in to solve it for them.”

Karen and Susan observed that the most challenging thing about this training for them is “getting people to think beyond the book in front of them, to how to use other books and materials to deepen the exploration of a given theme.” The example they gave is that participants who don’t have experience with the tradition of folklore cannot appreciate Who’s In Rabbit’s House as an example of the genre, but instead, take it out of context and decide they don’t like it as a story.

Still, participants appreciated the activity suggestions in the Activity & Resource Guide, and by the second session, some had already started implementing them.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Many Eyes traveling book collection

Born to Read proudly announces its very own LibraryThing catalog! All the books we own, for both children and adults, are now listed online using this website, which was started by a man now living in Portland. The cataloguer was our wonderful volunteer, Amron Gravett. Take a look around the catalog – you may be surprised at some of the nearly 700 titles we own! – and if you have your own LibraryThing catalog, please let us know so we can compare books.

Why should this matter to trainers? Well, we’ve always offered use of a large collection of display books to those delivering Many Eyes, Many Voices close enough to Portland that they can lug the collection around. The collection was catalogued in a spreadsheet. Now that it’s online, local trainers can pick and choose which titles they’d like to display, so that we can prepare a smaller box for them. Trainers who live too far away to use our books can look for copies in their local libraries. Find (and bookmark) this collection here.

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