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Month: August 2016


  • National Ambassador Gene Luen Yang’s NYT Comic

    Yang recalls a moment in third grade when storytelling enabled him to overcome his prejudice toward a fellow classmate. I’m a writer, and belief in the power of story is almost …

  • K-5 Educators Will Harness the Power of Read Alouds with New Professional Resource from Scholastic

    The Best Friend Fiction Collection by Lester Laminack Enhances Literacy Instruction with Interactive Read Alouds and Introduces the Breakthrough Concept of “Best Friend Books” New York, NY – August 31, …

  • We Breathe as One: The Role of Folktales in Diversity

    Contributed by Pleasant DeSpain, Author

    Fundamentally, diversity means difference. Fundamentally, folktales invite inclusion.

    Sitting on a litter-strewn beach in Negombo, Sri Lanka during the fall of 2000, a 17-year old Sinhalese lad named Nehan approached me and asked if he could practice speaking English. He told me about his life and his family, the difficulties of the ongoing war with the Tamil, and how he hoped to succeed in life. Nehan also asked many questions about my life and my travels. We shared a wealth of words. An hour later I stood up and put on my shirt. At that point, the young man surprised me with a pantomime: removing his eyes and placing them in my shirt pocket. Then he said, “Take my eyes with you and show me the rest of the world.”

     Nehan echoed an archetypal theme found in many multicultural tales. Every culture has stories dealing with the necessity of loss in order to gain something of value. In this case, the loss of sight in order to “see.”

     We accept that human beings, being human are much more alike than different. The diversity of our cultures including race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, age, sexuality and political beliefs is extraordinary.

     Folktales (people-stories) celebrate our differences while underscoring and reinforcing our similarities. One major reason is the oral tradition. When a story is told aloud, it is shaped by the people involved. History, culture and core values are shaped each time a story is shared. Humans are travelers and they carry their stories with them. They settle in new lands with different languages and different cultural traditions. New families and friends embrace a tale as it reflects their personal understanding of how life works, continues and evolves.

     Folktales originated at the beginning of human time. They’ve traveled far and wide, and continue to demonstrate our shared humanity here and now. All stories have a beginning, middle and an end. Time exists in the past, present and future. We locate stories at a point in time, followed by a recognizable place. Place exists in culture, ours or in some other region. Knowing the time, our readers and listeners can visualize the place and the people who inhabit it. And while imagining the diversity offered, the audience can “see” themselves in the story as it unfolds. Experiencing oneself amidst this diversity allows our prejudices to diminish, becoming less powerful, at least for the moment of time in the telling-listening.

     As we breathe, so do we live. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned during all these years of discovering, telling, adapting and writing variations of age-old tales is the role of breath in bringing the story, the teller and the listener together. Stories are shared through words. Words are formed and shared with breath. When my listeners and I share the same breath, inhaling and exhaling simultaneously as the story unfolds, human bonding occurs. We feel not only more alive with imagination, emotion and expectation (and then what happens?) but more together in our shared humanity. Here, diversity lives in a profoundly positive way.

     I’m a wanderer, a vagabond at heart. Having traveled far and wide on planet Earth, I’ve met many of my sisters and brothers. They are of Eastern or Western origins. Some are happy, while others are sad. They’re old and young, strong and weak. Each person has a story worth sharing. They too heard a variety of folktales when they were young. They too found themselves entertained, intrigued and educated by these timeless stories. They too found me in their stories, just as I’ve discovered them. We’ve breathed the same air. We’ve found the balance between the inhale and the exhale. Thus we celebrate our diversity together.

     Nehan asked me to show him the world. How can I disappoint?

     I found a folktale in Venezuela called “Tossing Eyes…”

    Pleasant DeSpain has a most unusual but true name and an equally unusual but true profession – writer and storyteller. He travels the world collecting, researching, writing and retelling traditional tales from native cultures. Born in Colorado, he wrote his first original story at age eight. It was published as “The Mystery Artist” in 1996. Pleasant taught speech-literature-drama for six years at three universities, and wrote-produced-hosted an award-winning TV show called “Pleasant Journeys” on KING TV, Seattle. Now, the author of eighteen award-winning, multicultural story collections and picture books, published by August House, has a home in Troy, NY and frequently travels to spend extended periods of time in Thailand. Pleasant continues to travel the world having amazing adventures. While living half of each year in Thailand, Pleasant continues to collect more stories and is currently working on a new book.

  • SCBWI Announces 2016 Book Launch Award Winners

    The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 SCBWI Book Launch Award. The annual award, established by the SCBWI in 2012, …

  • New York Yankees Celebrate Young Readers at The New York Public Library’s Annual Summer Reading Awards Ceremony

    New York, NY — Three children and teen readers of The New York Public Library’s Summer Reading program will be honored at Yankee Stadium August 17, shortly before the Yankees’ …

  • Diversity in the News: August 2016

    The newsletter is a valuable resource for librarians, teachers, booksellers, parents and caregivers, publishing professionals, and children’s literature lovers. Find thought-provoking articles, diverse new releases, and more in this month’s issue and sign …

  • Book Clubs for Kids

    Whether they’re focusing on new releases or galleys of upcoming titles, book clubs bring children and teens into bookstores while fostering literary discovery and dialogue. It’s been a wonderful way to keep kids …

  • Remembering Gene Wilder

    Celebrities have taken to social media in tribute to the late comedian. Film lovers and children’s book fans alike will surely miss Wilder. One of the truly great talents of …

  • First Book and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing to Donate 20,000 Jason Reynolds’ Books to Children in Need

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 150 million books to children in need, has partnered with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing to distribute 20,000 …

  • 2016 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Announced

    NEW YORK, NY – The 2016 School Librarian of the Year Award winner and two finalists were announced today by School Library Journal (SLJ). Sponsored by Scholastic Library Publishing, this …

  • National Ambassador Gene Luen Yang Shares Ten Kids’ Comics That You Need to Read

    With a wide cast of characters, including hyper-intelligent insects and a kid superhero, there’s something for every kind of reader on this book list! Paths and Portals, book two in Yang’s Secret …

  • The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Celebrates 50 Years of Brown Bear

    Amherst, MA (August 24, 2016) – The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art celebrates the 50th anniversary of the beloved story that launched Eric Carle’s picture-book career—Brown Bear, Brown Bear, …

  • S.E. Hinton’s ‘The Outsiders’ Turns 50

    Fifty years later, the book continues to capture the anxieties and pressures of adolescence with an authentic voice. Penguin Young Readers will release a special anniversary edition of The Outsiders on …

  • A Library Card Provides Endless Opportunities For Family Engagement

    CHICAGO, IL – September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, a time when the nation’s public libraries highlight the value of a library card. As children head back to school, family …

  • Sabaa Tahir to Pen Two More Books in Critically-Acclaimed, New York Times Bestselling ‘An Ember in the Ashes’ Series

    New York, NY – Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, has acquired books three and four in Sabaa Tahir’s critically-acclaimed, internationally bestselling ‘An Ember in the Ashes’ series. Tahir’s …

  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Announces Second Quarter 2016 Results

    BOSTON, MA – Global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (“HMH” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: HMHC) today announced its financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2016. Second Quarter …

  • Inspiring Summer Reading

    Rather than offer rewards such as money or screen time, which dilute the reading experience, Willingham advises parents to provide plenty of books and opportunities for reading time. Ultimately, a child who …

  • Candlewick Press Announces Publication of New Book by Newbery and Caldecott Award–Winning Team Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca

    SOMERVILLE, MA – Leading independent children’s book publisher Candlewick Press is announcing the publication ofPrincess Cora and the Crocodile , a gorgeous and original storybook collaboration from Newbery Award–winning author …

  • Roald Dahl’s 100th Birthday Celebration

    The celebration will include new editions of Dahl classics featuring Quentin Blake’s illustrations; the Splendiferous Showdown, a touring trivia show starring the Story Pirates; community celebrations across the country; and much …

  • New Report from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Reveals Educators Hungry for Professional Learning and Greater Family Engagement

    BOSTON, MA – Global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) today announced the findings of the second annual Educator Confidence Report, which examines educator sentiment on a range of issues, …


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