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CAROLE GILL: End of summer events

July 30, 2013

This is our last week for children’s and teen summer activities, so we want to give you invitations to these events first, then we’ll share what could be profitable reading for older children and tweens during these last days of summer vacation.
Today will be our last pre-school and early childhood summer story time at 11 a.m. We had dinosaur stories and songs last time and that was such a hit, we’ll repeat that subject with our “Dig Into Reading” theme programing again this week.
Tonight is “Jump Start for Literacy,” a joint program with the Literacy Council of LeFlore County and Buckley Library for families with young children. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., we have a casual meal, share stories, literature and literacy information, have crafts and give away books. Amazingly, all of this and we’ll be through by 7 p.m.
Wednesday will be the last day for our reading promotions and rewards for both the teen and children. All of you readers who have been keeping records, please turn them in Wednesday at the latest.
Wednesday 10 a.m., we’ll have our last Summer Reading Program activity for children kindergarten-5. Ashton Wise and others have some sweet activities planned in celebration of the classic story, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Come on in for fun, crafts, prizes and more.
For our teens in the afternoon on Wednesday at 1 p.m., we are pleased to have one of our own young adult Buckley users, Sarah Mixon, share her experiences working with the Non-Governmental Organization “Teach For Palestine.” She will have a video presentation but also will talk informally about the people, cultures and political realities and of the Jerusalem/Palestine region. We also will discuss short term opportunities for service in other parts of the world for any teens out there who have dreamed of visiting “far away places with strange sounding names.”
And this leads to our reading topic for today.
How about visiting someone very different from yourself from the ease and safety of your reading chair? How about encouraging a child to do so? You may have watched travel and food shows, talked to others who have participated in humanitarian projects or mission trips, looked at magazines or non-fiction books and thought, I’d like to visit there, but…. Or perhaps you’ve viewed or listened to a news report and wondered why those people groups behave as they do.
Developing a more personal understanding of cultures, belief systems and lifestyles very different from our own is one of the many benefits of reading widely, even recreationally. While there may be misinformation, strong bias and agendas on the part of authors, stories can cause us to think about different perspectives and motivations.
Here are a few suggestions written primarily for the middle grades or middle school students that could be enlightening beyond that age window.
“Benny and Omar” by Eoin Colfer is a great look at how children from cultures on the opposite sides of the world can work through their differences. Benny has to leave his friends and his private parochial school in Ireland to live in a petroleum workers compound in Tunisia. Omar, a scrappy Tunisian orphan, helps Benny lose the sarcastic superior attitude and together they terrorize and advance the understanding of these contrasting cultures.
In “Wild Girl” by Patricia Riley Giff, 12-year-old Brazilian Lidie is free to ride, to be a wild girl, but dreams of joining her father in New York City where he manages a stable at a famous race track and her older brother Rafael is training to be a jockey. Be careful what you dream. As Lidie’s story unfolds, so does the story of a filly, from its birth, in alternating chapters. As you might expect, the two wild girls come together.
“Drita, My Homegirl” tells of Drita, a 10-year-old Muslim Albanian refugee from Kosovo is just learning English and is a stranger in her fourth-grade classroom in Brooklyn, N.Y. Maxie is African American, one of the in-crowd that wants nothing to do with the newcomer — until her social studies teacher requires her to interview Drita. The two girls speak in alternating first-person narratives that reveal both their differences and their connections: Drita’s mother is having a breakdown; Maxie cannot confront her grief about her mother’s death in a car accident three years before.
“Under the Blood Red Sun” is for a slightly more mature readership, by Graham Salisbury. This story of conflict between generations, cultures and countries is set in Hawaii, and opens with Tomi Nagaki, the son of Japanese immigrants, angry at his Japanese grandfather’s odd ways. World War II seems far away from Tomi and his friends until Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese, and the United States declares war on Japan. Japanese men are rounded up, and Tomi’s father and grandfather are arrested. It’s a terrifying time to be Japanese in America.
“Weedflower” by Cynthia Kadohata is a related story for girls. Twelve-year-old Sumiko feels her life has been made up of two parts: before Pearl Harbor and after it. The good part and the bad part. Raised on a flower farm in California, Sumiko is used to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Even when the other kids tease her, she always has had her flowers and family to go home to. How did she and her family so quickly lose everything and find themselves in an internment camp?
There are many more entertaining books that also help us reevaluate our understanding of cultures different from our own. We’ll be glad to help you find others at Buckley.

Carole Gill is the children’s and young adult librarian at Buckley Public Library in Poteau. E-mail her at carolegill@oklibrary.net.

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