Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Helen Hollister
English 225
Explorations Project
Spring 2010

African-American Children's Literature, With an Emphasis on History

The Report, by screencast video, Part 1 and Part 2

Works Cited

Bridges, Ruby. Ruby Bridges Goes To School: My True Story. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2003. Print.

Herron, Carolivia. Always an Olivia: A Remarkable Family History. Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2007. Print.

Mortensen, Lori. Harriet Tubman: Hero of the Underground Railroad. Minneapolis: Picture Window Books, 2007. Print.

Rochelle, Belinda. Words With Wings: A Treasury of African American Poetry and Art. Singapore: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001. Print.

Shore, Diane Z. and Jessica Alexander. This Is The Dream. Washingont, D.C.: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006. Print.

Stokes, John A. Students On Strike: Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Brown and Me. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008. Print.

Thomas, Joyce Carol. The Blacker The Berry. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008.

Turner, Glennette Tilley. An Apple For Harriet Tubman. Guilford, CT: Nutmeg Media, 2006. DVD.


Reflecting On The Exploration Project and Report

Overall I was satisfied with how my Explorations Project turned out. I loved receiving the positive responses and feedback from my classmates in the discussion forum. Most of the time when you complete a project like this, your only audience is the professor so it is nice to have a broader sounding board for a more in-depth project. Beside a few technical glitches, I feel that what I managed to come up with for my project was a valuable contribution to this class.

Initially, all I had for a topic idea was “African American children’s literature” and that is a very broad topic. I didn’t put very much conscious effort in trying to narrow the topic down and that may have been a mistake. I searched through the books available through the Bellingham Public Library and the best of the ones that I was able to get my hands on filled out the content for my project. I think I was definitely reminded through our class reading of Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis about my fondness for African American historical fiction and non-fiction as well. I love dramatic stories featuring honorable and resilient characters. I love gaining exposure to time periods and ways of life that I do not normally have close access to. Reading Elijah definitely served to remind me about how much I connected to stories like the biography of Harriet Tubman and movies like The Color Purple and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I wanted to examine what was out there for this genre now. The historical emphasis came out of my strong interest that began from exposure to these books and movies. Elijah sort of rekindled that interest for me.

I was pleasantly surprised by the responses people gave for the project in the discussion forum. They enjoyed getting some book suggestions and hearing a little bit about each of the selections I chose. While I was not particularly worried about having too broad of a topic, as I read or listened to most of the other projects, I was definitely struck by how effective they were in having a much more narrowly defined topic and purpose. Some of the strongest ones focused on one reading or learning issue or one particular book or author. With my survey of a handful of books, this may not have been the most effective route to take for this project. But in the end, people appreciated being exposed to several different choices and ideas from this genre. Through the feedback I received, I count the broad scope of my project as both a strength and as a possible weakness all at the same time.

Another strength of my project that I gleaned from the responses I received is that this is a relatively unfamiliar topic for many people. It just doesn’t come up on most people’s radars so I was pleased to have an opportunity to shed a little bit of light on a genre of literature that is unknown to many. In reading, sometimes we can get stuck in a rut or explore only our favorite and most familiar genres or literary styles. This can be positive in that it may keep our momentum to keep reading, but there is so much literature out there that we do ourselves a disservice if we do not branch out and explore beyond the familiar. This is especially important in children’s literature. I think one of the biggest and most wondrous elements of children’s literature is that its job is to bring stories to life for kids. We shouldn’t place any limits on what those stories should be about.

One of the challenges of this explorations project for me was simply trying to get comfortable using a new form of technology. I am not totally incompetent with certain elements of technology but I do not consider myself to be someone who possesses an innate curiosity and trouble-shooting power to conquer any and all forms of technology with relish. I am able to master the technology I need for work, etc. but never push the limits for it beyond that. I had never previously had any experience with creating jings. Overall, I found it relatively straightforward to use. I did visit the writing center at Whatcom to go through the basics. I guess there were only two elements that were a bit tricky for me. One was timing it just right for when to begin speaking at the beginning. I thought at the time that I was coming in with my words right after the countdown on the screen, but then the program ended up cutting me off anyways. The other hiccup involved getting my completed jings into the proper screencast format so that other people could receive them and access them. Both of these issues were the sorts of things that will go away as I become more and more comfortable using them.

One of my aims for this project was to have some visual aids to enhance my project as I presented my ideas with the jing. The route I took to accomplish this goal may not have been the most successful option, but overall, I think it worked and gave my audience a good sampling of some of the compelling illustrations that struck me from the books that I selected. I think the projects that incorporated a jing with a PowerPoint presentation may have been more effective in executing the visual aids I wanted to have in a way that would best accompany my ideas through the presentation. But, this is all information that I gained in hindsight so all we can do is reflect upon it at this point.

I really liked one comment within the discussion forum that was left by Wendy: “Wouldn't it be nice if someday there was no literary genre based on race at all...” I think this is a good point to make. Picking out African American children’s literature as a genre may be just as token an effort as celebrating African American history during the month of February. But since we are still not at the point when we can guarantee a strong and broad representation of all types of people and all types of experiences in books and in classrooms, I think that making this the focus of an explorations project still holds merit. Once we can transcend these sorts of labels, it will be an entirely different landscape, but we have a long way to go.

From here, I do not have a specific goal or purpose as far as where I would like to take this project or the information I have gathered. This, in addition to the readings we have completed as a class has motivated me to seek out different books for my own personal enjoyment and books that I think my niece and nephews and my students would enjoy.

All in all, this was a great opportunity to take some time and explore a topic that is of interest to me. Being able to share my findings from this experience with my classmates was definitely a highlight because from the responses I got, it seems like many people learned something new and were able to take away a better understanding of what is out there in this particular genre. I also really liked being able to simply devote some time to reading through books and taking in the words and the stunning illustrations. The average person definitely does not devote any decent percentage to their day to this simple yet fulfilling task. And that is a shame.


Copyright 2010
Helen Hollister

Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
1999-2015