Your Story Matters
As young children learn to read they’re often drawn to stories about children much like themselves. Yet when non-white children crack open a book, most of the time, the stories they see are the stories of white kids.
In 2014, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education conducted a study of 3,500 newly published books and found that only 11 percent featured minority characters prominently. Contrast that with our present-day racial make up: almost 50 percent of children under the age of five are non-white.
How much harder must it be for kids to develop a love of reading if the stories they read are hard to relate to?
Is it any wonder that many minority children grow up feeling like their stories don’t matter to the larger world?
“We have made a commitment to always believe the kids can do more and they always prove us right,” Crutcher said.
Some people might think that below grade readers are unlikely authors. However, Crutcher said, because of the multitude of stresses in their schools, these kids are often victims of low expectations.
Shout Mouse has also worked with teen writers at Ballou High School to create memoir collections geared toward teen readers. Their stories share the challenges of growing up in tumultuous and sometimes frightening environments.
M.S. Holiday (a pen name) contributed to the first memoir, "How to Grow Up Like Me.” Her essay, “17 Lessons,” is about what she learned growing up in a physically abusive home. She often wished she could protect her mother from further abuse. Schoolwork, she said, was her refuge.
“People say to follow your heart,” she wrote, “but I don’t want any emotions wrapped up with what was already happening so I just had my knowledge.”