Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Grading Yourself with the Fuse #8 Poll

Elizabeth Bird has been laboring over the results of the 100 Best Children's Novels Poll and has finally put a nice bow on it. But the discussion continues. Lots of bloggers, starting I think with Teacherninja, have been reporting on the number of books on the list that they've read and giving themselves a grade. Meanwhile, Debbie Reese has begun the project of pointing out all the problematic portrayals of Native Americans in the novels.

This relates to a larger issue: the list has very few examples of books by or about people of color. This isn't really surprising, because lo these many years, books by and about white people have been getting published and winning Newbery awards and getting assigned by classroom teachers much more often than books (imagine all the unpublished--even unwritten ones!) by people of color. In fact, in the last issue of Hornbook, there was a wonderful article about being black and growing up reading books like The Secret Garden.

Also, the CCBC has been collecting data on the number of books by and about people of color that are published in the US, and it's distressing. Here's just a sample:


Total Number
of Books
Published (Est.)

Number of Books

African /
African Americans

American Indians

Asian Pacifics/
Asian Pacific Americans


ByAbout ByAbout ByAbout ByAbout
2007 5,000 3,000 77 150 6 44 56 68 42 59

So it's not surprising, to me, to find that most of the people who participated in Elizabeth Bird's poll have read and liked more books by and about white people. So--how helpful!--the Fuse #8 poll reveals the bias in our field. But it also reinforces it. At least it does if our response is to use it as an assessment tool rather than looking at it as an interesting snapshot.

Naturally, I have a solution. After the jump are all of the chapter books on the CCBC's 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know. There are ten. (How perfect!) So give yourself 10 points for each of the following that you have read. Now average that with your Fuse #8 grade. Now you have a grade which is adjusted for white bias. This is obviously mathematically suspect, but entertaining, no?

From the CCBC's 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know:

Look, Lenore. Ruby Lu, Brave and True. Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. An Anne Schwartz Book / Atheneum, 2004. 105 pages. Ages 5 - 9

Perkins, Mitali. Rickshaw Girl. Illustrated by Jamie Hogan. Charlesbridge, 2007. 91 pages. Ages 8-10

Walter, Mildred Pitts. Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World. Lothrop, 1988. Ages 7-9

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. Delacorte, 1999. Ages 8 - 13

Erdrich, Louise. The Birchbark House. Hyperion, 1999. Ages 8 - 12

Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard. Clarion, 2001. Ages 9 - 12

Lin, Grace. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Little, Brown, 2009. 278 pages. Ages 8 - 11

Ryan, Pam Munoz. Esperanza Rising. Scholastic, 2000. Ages 10 - 14

Sheth, Kashmira. Boys without Names. Balzer & Bray, 2010. 320 pages. Ages 9-13

Taylor, Mildred D.. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.. Dial, 1976.
I'd get about a 39%. Yeesh.

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