Thursday, January 26, 2017

Multicultural Book Day- #ReadYourWorld

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I am Not a Number
by Kathy Kacer and Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis
Published by Second Story Press

I can't remember how exactly I found out about Multicultural Children's Book Day, but I do know that when I read the below mission "to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid's books that celebrate diversity in home and school" I was all in.  I applied to be a reviewer of one of the MCBD books, and was lucky enough to get chosen.

So in the mail Second Story Press sent me "I am Not a Number" by Kathy Kacer and Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis Second Story Press. This beautifully illustrated and well written book describes the real life events of 8 year old Irene Couchie Dupuis, a Nipissing First Nation Indian.  Irene at age 8 (some children were as young as 4), along with her brothers, were removed from their home and taken away to live and attend a residential school .  These residential schools were across Canada and for over a century approximately 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were taken away from their homes to attend these schools.

In the story Irene and her two brothers are taken away from their home by an Indian Agent and transported to a residential school.  This school was run by nuns and each child who entered was no longer called by their given name, but instead given a number.  Irene was number 759. Besides the demoralizing act of no longer being called by name students were also not allowed to ever speak in their Indian language,  and they were forced to have their hair cut (long hair was a source of pride in their community and the only time hair was cut was when a loved one died).

One of the toughest parts in the book, for me, was when Irene spoke in thanks to one of her classmates in her native language at lunchtime.  Irene was immediately hit with a wooden spoon across her head and then taken down the hallway to learn her Lessons by Sister Mary.  Sister Mary proceeds to ask Irene to hold out her hands, palms up,  and then placed a hot bedpan onto her palms- scorching and burning her skin.  This Lesson was to help Irene learn to not "speak the devil's language". 

Irene and her brothers eventually end the school year and are returned to home for summer break.  However, as the summer rolls on Irene's father discovers the truth about Irene's experience at the residential school.  The family then makes a plan for the children to hide when the agent comes back to take them to the residential school in the fall.  The day arrives when the agent again returns to retrieve the children and Irene and her brothers hide and escape return to the residential school.  It ends on a high note with all of the family safely together after the agent departs.

The story was well written and kept my attention throughout. I had not heard of the residential schools in Canada prior to this book.  At the end of the book there are three pages filled with biographical facts about the real Irene Couchie Dupuis, author Jenny Kay Dupuis' grandmother.  I found these three pages to be super informative about the injustice brought onto these children, and their families, because of their ethnicity.   

"The schools were created and funded by the federal government in the belief that Indigenous peoples were uncivilized and needed to be 'saved" from themselves."

In 1986, The United Church of Canada, apologized to the Indigenous people in regards to the residential school program as Roman Catholics, Presbyterians United and Anglican churches staffed the schools with nuns, priests, and teachers. Sadly the last residential school didn't close until 1996 and it took until 2008 for the Prime Minister of Canada to issue an apology to these Indigenous people.

The affect of these kinds of stories are powerful. It makes me realize and remind me of how little I know or have heard of other people's cultural, and ethnic struggles.  It reminds me to open a book and read on diverse groups of people, not to stay within my own ethnicity and culture.  We need to hear and read more of these stories and I feel grateful to have been introduced to this day of celebrating multicultural children and the books that tells their stories. 

The following is further information about MCBD and links for those interested in further information and resources. 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that. 

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

  Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Delores Connors, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin,  Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O'Malley, Stacy McAnulty,  Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

  Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Delores Connors, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin,  Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O'Malley, Stacy McAnulty,  Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/
Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

4 comments:

  1. It's SO important to share books like this! I never learned about residential schools until I was an adult, but now more and more stories like this are coming to light. When I Was Eight is another great one. #ReadYourWorld

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  2. This sounds so interesting! It's going on my To Read list! Thanks fr sharing.

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  3. Wow! I had no idea. I'm so used to hearing how lousy the United States treated the Native Americans, it's refreshing (and sad, of course) to hear that Canada has some ugly parts to it's past, too.

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  4. I had no idea this happened! It sounds like a heart wrenching and powerful story. Thanks for sharing!

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