YEB Creates Pages of Culture (May 2016)
By Jessica Mendoza, YEB Co-chair, Roseville Area High School
Equity Alliance MN’s Youth Executive Board has been working diligently for the last couple months creating books for children. The purposes of this project were to include people of color in children's books, to increase the diversity of cultures young people are exposed to, and to encourage excitement of literacy. Another goal of the project was to address one of YEB’s core values, educational equity. YEB felt strongly about addressing the cultural narratives in our society. Growing up many YEB members from all over the east metro area did not see their culture represented in books.
YEB split into four groups that collaborated to create end products that will surely wow readers. The first book “Jenna the Colorless Butterfly” follows the adventures of a colorless butterfly that travels across the globe to learn about the meaning of various colors in other cultures. The idea sprang from reflecting on the values the Lakota, Indian, Hmong, and Nigerian people held most dear. After extensive research the group noticed a pattern of attribution between colors and values. Faith Hang from East Ridge High School and a member of the butterfly group, commented on how she strongly believes “something small can make a big difference.
“The Journey of Htoo” is the story of a young Karen girl from Thailand that immigrates to America. This vivid tale recounts her experiences at a refugee camp and her adaptation to American culture. This particular story was based on some truth regarding the experiences of one of the group members that worked on the book. Janette Mendoza from Roseville, and an editor to the group, hopes readers will keep in mind, “living in someone else's shoes allows people to embrace differences.”
“The Sparrow’s Message” was inspired by the folktale from Korea, which is actually embedded into the story. It begins with a girl named Autumn who has bi-racial parents that take their child on a trip to Korea so she may become immersed in her culture. Rebecca Steffan from South St. Paul hopes that “The Sparrow’s Message” will be “a tale that will help readers learn and live to embrace diversity.”
“Taste of Heritage” recounts the story of an optimist and pessimist that attend a cultural fair and allow readers to understand how having good attitudes makes experiences better. Sammy Martinez from Mendota Heights hopes that readers will learn from the book that “not everybody keeps an open mind but they should to educate themselves.
Through each group’s many efforts in meeting outside of YEB’s one week commitment and constant work in session, YEB’s children’s books reflect a diverse range of cultures, while staying in tune with the creativity of younger readers. YEB hopes that these books will serve to delight and expose young minds to different tales that all reveal the fundamental lesson; racial and cultural competency helps mold others into open minded individuals.