Last week, a school district in Tennessee banned the book series, “Maus” from the 8th grade language arts curriculum. “Maus,” by Art Spiegelman tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Spiegelman based his novels on real-life interviews he conducted with family members who survived the Holocaust.
This is not the first time that books sharing stories of historically marginalized and tormented groups have been banned. More and more we are seeing schools and communities that are afraid of teaching the truth of our history and unwilling to share stories with diverse characters. Books are being banned because they address racism head on; Because they have characters who are transgender; Because they depict gay or lesbian relationships. There are countless “reasons” some folks find to justify denying children the opportunity to explore the world through diverse books. Here at Kindness Grows Here we believe that sharing diverse stories and teaching accurate history is not only kind, but crucial.
To show our support for these important “banned” books, we are running a contest on our Facebook and Instagram (@KindnessGrowsHere) pages in which 15 lucky supporters of Kindness Grows Here will be awarded one of three “banned books.” From everyone who comments (on Facebook & Instagram) we will randomly choose 15 individuals to be mailed their very own brand new “banned book.” (We will stop collecting comments at 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday February 4, 2022.) Winners will be able to choose from, Maus, George, and New Kid (all books that have been banned within the last 3 years by 1 or more schools or districts). In return, we simply ask that after each of the winners finishes reading the book, that they share it with someone else.
We are excited to support our local book store, Park Books & Litcolab who is proud to carry copies of these “banned books” and from whom we will be purchasing the winner’s copies.
Learn more about each of the “banned books” our winners will be able to choose from:
From the publisher of George by Alex Gino: “When people look at Melissa, they think they see a boy named George. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.
Melissa thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. Melissa really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part… because she’s a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, Melissa comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.”
From the Publisher of New Kid by Jerry Craft: “This is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
This middle grade graphic novel is an excellent choice for tween readers, including for summer reading.
New Kid is a selection of the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List.
From the publisher of Maus by Art Spiegelman: “A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.
Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history’s most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma.”
Clearly, none of these books should be banned. They should be required for all children. Reading books like there ensures kids see and experience a wide range of characters in the books they read. It increases the chances they will find a character who is like them, and teachers them empathy and greater understanding for characters who are different from them. Books like Maus, that tell the true story of our history, a history that was at times horrifying, help us to understand the mistakes of our past, so that we are not doomed to repeat them.
Kindness Grows Here believes that kindness is teaching accurate history. Kindness is teaching that differences are something to celebrate not ridicule. Kindness is encouraging kids to read a wide variety of books, from a wide variety of authors, with stories that show the diversity and beauty of all those in our world.