Transcription Episode 6 Season 1
“Librarian Fight Club”
Intro: Welcome to the Picture Bookstagang Podcast
And we’re the picture bookstagang! We invite you to join us here every other week while we discuss amazing books and issues in children’s literature. As well as Early literacy education and parenting as it relates to reading. We can’t wait to dig in and deep and get nerdy about picture books with you.
Kelly: 0:36: Hello and Welcome back to the picture bookstagang podcast! I’m Kelly and I am once again joined by my delightful friends and co-hosts Ale and Corrie
Ale 0:45: Hello Friends I’m Ale!
Corrie: Hi! I’m Corrie!
Kelly 0:50: So hopefully you’ve gotten a chance to listen to the first few episodes of our podcast at this point! This actually, is the very first episode we are recording since the podcast officially launched and went out into the world, so we just wanted to express our gratitude for the outpouring of love and support we have received since we’ve launched.
Ale 1:09 : Yeah! Hearing from you guys and your input on our discussions has been such a wonderful experience and sort of surreal because we record them alone together and it sort of feels like it just disappears into the ethers…so it’s nice to hear from you.
Corrie: Absolutely, we couldn’t be more grateful to everyone for tuning in and hitting subscribe and we have so many dialogues we want to begin, so many ideas to share and build with our community here!
Ale 1:40: We have some super exciting stuff coming up and it is really hard not to spill the beans! Actually I’m just really bad at keeping surprises. But I’m gonna try…
Kelly: Sooo excited for all of this! But, with our love fest out of the way now. We are covering yet another spicy topic this week …
Ale 2:02: hmmm yeah this one might get some people a bit heated in the comments over on instagram because we are talking about…LIBRARIAN FIGHT CLUB!
Kelly 2:13: Yes! I am so pumped for this, and I just want to be clear that first rule of librarian fight club is.
Ale: There is only one rule in The librarian fight club, and that rule is…shhhh. ok but also probably no dog earing your pages.
Coco 2:31: But like what if I dog ear my pages? … haha anyway for those of you that don’t know #Librarianfightclub is an Instagram event where we post a Controversial Picturebook and let the crowd heatedly discuss it, usually it happens on Ale’s page @readwithriver
Ale 2:50: Yes, I started doing it last autumn after I came across “The Giving Tree” while I was at school, and I thought “I flippin hate this book. It’s just…no.” So let’s fight about it on the internet! BUT actually, it was Corrie that came up with the name! Which has really been a big part of the appeal for everybody.
Corrie: I completely forgot that was me, I’m quite pleased with myself.
Ale: You should be!
Kelly: But Corrie you’re the only one of us who hasn’t hosted a #Librarianfightclub yet on your page, I think you better get on that.
Ale: Yes! 100% Corrie, I wanna see you host it!
Corrie: I’ll think about it…hmm I have a few that might work. I mean ideally it should be a book that is controversial but definitely has two valid points of view. Otherwise it’s just a public roasting and NOT a productive conversation.
Ale 3:48: So true! Although I got to say people love the salt. And those people, are me… and a few others at least…
Kelly: But it’s really not just about salt though it is truly about critically looking at books, books that often go unquestioned…. and discussing them together so that we can come to a better understanding of them. Opinions are welcome but we do go pretty hard. There are some Strong opinions strongly held.
Ale 4:20: Sometimes they’re just books I personally find annoying, like “Pete the Cat Construction Destruction” book.
Coco: Oh dear here we go…shes about to go in
Ale 4:31: IT MAKES NO SENSE OKAY? It just doesn’t make sense.
Kelly: I flipping detest Pete the cat haha. I do not like Pete the cat. It’s a cat that goes to school and wears shoes …I think maybe we’ve gotten passed the making sense part.
Ale 4:45: NO! No. THere’s a bar here. Let me just explain, quickly, because people need to know.
Coco 4:51: I mean there’s slightly more serious books that maybe we should talk about you know,… with racist and misogynistic elements.
Ale 5:00: Yes racism and misogynist we will talk about that, but first! Okay so look Pete the cat’s his principal is designing a new play structure for the school. So obviously he lets Pete the Cat design the new play structure, Pete is not an engineer ok? And then the principal is like “What do you need? Here have all the money!” NO! That would not happen! And then the actual plans make no sense. Do not abide by the laws of physics, and then the KIDS are using forklifts. They’re using forklift and the whole thing falls apart, this is a law suit. THere’s an octopus, okay? Anyways..it’s just…oh gosh.
Kelly 5:47: Yes we agree with you! WE AGREE! IT MAKES NO SENSE! I know you’re exhausted now. It’s awful haha but It’s going to be okay. Hahahaha. So, while yes, Librarian fight club definitely includes some pet peeve books, like that one. Those ones are just mildly annoying or nonsensical and they’re fun. But it was really created to discuss books with harmful messages under the surface or, with perhaps really deeply problematic authors in some cases.
Corrie 6:18: So we have to be making conscious decisions about who we are reading and what we are reading, what we are promoting, and that’s really what this is all about. Open discussion, dialogue, awareness. Making informed decisions. Ideally these discussions we are facilitating lead to some people removing some of these books from their shelves. A lot of the people who come to participate in librarian fight club or that have been coming to see that there is actually a lot more information out there about these problematic books and they just had absolutely have no idea about any of this.
Ale 6:54: Absolutely, and people are often are completely shocked by the information we uncover in Librarian fight club, and it gets everyone looking critically at how some of these books are unknowingly perpetuating harmful stereotypes that can get pretty deeply ingrained into very young children.
Corrie 7:11: We want to encourage everyone to think critically about what they are reading with their children. Especially older books, that can have some pretty outrageous messages, like that stack of Curious George or Dr. Seuss that might pop up in the school borrow book bag.
Kelly 7:25: And when we encounter these books we need to start discussions with kids about what harmful images or concepts we find in them, and also then work on the advocacy of having them removed from places where your children or other children are likely to browse without support, school library, classroom library, or grandparent’s house.
Corrie 7:46: So when we talked about Diversifying your bookshelf, in an earlier episode, we discussed how what you remove from your library can be just as powerful as what you add to your library. We have to take all these things that we are focusing on learning … or really I should say unlearning… and make sure that we are paying attention to what they’re reading. That if something feels off, we look into it, a really quick google… or if you want a full deep dive! But truly, truly a quick google search when you are getting that feeling something isn’t quite right can be extremely helpful to understand that the problems are with a book. Chances are something else has already done the work for you… maybe even one of us, haha.
Kelly 8:28: So when you get that feeling that …. Say for example ….I find a representation of an Inuit or Native Alaskan person in a book that is maybe inaccurate… I can google and then say hey! These humans are pictured with penguins- which actually only live in the southern hemisphere… so maybe that’s is a harmful image that will perpetuate a stereotype that I actively do not support as a person because it’s racist… and maybe I shouldn’t allow it to go unchecked on my kid’s bookshelf… So it’s time to retire this book!
Ale 9:02: Haha yeah, people hung on hard to that one that was one of the many problems with “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes” which Kelly featured on her Inclusive story time Librarian fight club a few weeks back, which turned out to have lots of strong opinions…I honestly don’t really get it, it was pretty bland..and problematic.
Kelly 9:25: Ooooh yes, some people were really firm on not abandoning that one. Like, they straight up said that babies wouldn’t know the difference so they wouldn’t grow up with stereotypical ideals and ingrained prejudice … which is just not true, like it’s like just move on… there are really much better books out there. Just get rid of the dang book already!!
Ale: this one has been really bothering Kelly for a while! And she’s right there totally is so, so many better books out there than “Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little toes.” But I get kind of squeamish when we talk about permanently removing old books because it feels a bit like suggesting book burning. Which is not what I’m into. And that’s not really what we are suggesting or at least, not what I am suggesting but Kelly might have some marshmallows ready for a nice Seuss BBQ?
Kelly: Perhaps not a bbq per say…. but I feel like I saw a post way back where someone tossed them in the blender and turned them into recycled paper art and I didn’t think that was a terrible idea……
Corrie 10:28: No that was an awesome Idea! I don’t think anyone is suggesting a book burning but you definitely have to recognize the extreme amount of harm that can come from books like Dr. Seuss both in perpetuating harmful stereotypes to white children and to Black and Asian folx in their extremely harmful representations. And this leaves deep and painful impressions on kids seeing themselves portrayed in those ways we actually aren’t going to get into too many specifics about Seuss as the Conscious kid illustrated very well. Which will be in the show notes down below. But suffice it to say that it has been established that they perpetuate harmful ideas and support the legacy of a racist individual. And people are just not letting go.
Ale 11:38:No, I am not a fan of the Seuss, I just would rather, you know, throw it in a box with some cd’s or something, let it collect dust with all the other useless antiques. But, I have to say I can’t get over the people who know all of the problems around this and say ok well, sure, but I really like this one particular book and I refuse to give that one up.
Kelly 11:37: That’s kind of the thing about some of them even beyond the problematic parts is also they just aren’0t that good. There are better rhyming books out there… and of course In general not all but many ….or even most of the so called “Classic” picture books don’t hold up well over time. The entire value system is just, not acceptable anymore. The gender roles, the expected behavior of children, the lack of diversity, the harmful imagery, the language. We can do a lot better.
Corrie 12:10:And we’ve been doing Librarian Fight Club for a while now, it was started last fall so that we could try to make it a little more light hearted while being critical of these classics. But we are now in the position that the world has changed and finally it’s becoming more palatable or even trendy to examine these classics more closely. So this idea to look critically is coming more into the mainstream and we are seeing it all over Instagram. Notably through the account Children’s lit world with her #reconsiderlit series that’s been helping a lot of people start looking at the other side and think more critically which I appreciate.
Kelly: Me too, I have been appreciating her bringing that into sharper focus in the Bookstagram community and parents and educators for sure.
Ale 13:00: Definitely. And you know, looking at these Classic books you can see they were made for another time – where misogyny, white supremacy, toxic masculinity, just the whole thing, is archaic in the worst way. It’s not charming people, it just reminds me that being a time traveller would probably sucked unless you were a rich straight cisgendered white dude who already stocked up on all the vaccines.
Corrie 12:28: Yeah just because something was old does not make it good! Like I’m not going to give kids lawn darts anymore because they are wildly unsafe! We already figured that out! So it’s weird to me that grip nostalgia holds on people when the realities were not pretty.
Kelly 13:51: Yes Corrie! I understand that we need to leave space for some nostalgia.. For that idealized version of that book and our experience of it, in that time, in the past … but let it stay in the past. It’s ok to have those warm and fuzzy feelings about reading a certain book… Babar, Curious George, Berenstain Bears, Dr. Suess, whatever it may be… you have memories maybe with a loved one when you were little reading that book ….but why keep reading it to your kids now when you know what it perpetuates. Ask yourself if it actually aligns with your values, and why you feel it’s more important than real life people that it harms, to keep reading a picture book. Ughhh I am a little bit passionate about this and this whole nostalgia issue.
Corrie 14:37: There is so much information out there …and it is our job as parents as educators to listen to that information and think deeper about why we are uncomfortable with removing these books from our bookshelves. It’s really important to pause and listen to your discomfort about these books and topics. WHY are you so uncomfortable with taking Curious George off your shelf? And even if you make that decision to take these books off your bookshelf what is your plan for when you kids come home with them, or say you are a teacher and a student comes in with these books? I think it’s important when we encounter these books we talk about what to do so that we can help kids develop critical thinking skills.
Ale 15:23: Yes, so I can use our family as an example the first time we read the original Curious George to River on the Moonlite projector (and we really like the Moonlite Projector) We didn’t remember what Curious George was about, we just remembered ‘oh it’s a monkey.’ But it went up on the wall, and suddenly the monkey is being kidnapped in a hat against his will, and suddenly he’s brought on a ship and told he has to be good. Then he tries to escape and almost drowns, and he’s smoking a pipe and he gets thrown in jail. It is just wild! And we’re reading this and, maybe we should have stopped reading it, that was maybe an option but it just kept going. And as we are reading it though we did talk about what we were seeing and we talked with River about like, hey does this seem right to you? And she was like ‘noooo maybe that man’s a bad man he shouldn’t be kidnapping what about George’s mommy’ and etc etc. So we were able to have a discussion of what we were seeing and what that meant and the implications of that together. However, I do have to say not everybody is prepared to have this on the spot, and too, Curious George is also really obvious, a lot of problematic books are not so in your face about it. They’re more subtle and that’s harder to point out on the fly with a three or a four year old.
Kelly 17:02: So it would be a huge conversation for a 3 or 4 year old to get into the intricacies of colonialist symbolism in a book like Curious George… and there are a lot of people might not be prepared to have on the spot even with an older child. Ale you maaaaybe might have gone in deeper like when we’ve talked about that conversation in the past, even then I would have for that age (and I don’t hold back!) but you know your kid best and you know the level of conversation that works for you and your child. And if you as a listener aren’t ready to go that deep, that is totally ok, you can say something like “hey, there is definitely some things in this book, whatever book it may be, that our family doesn’t support, because they really hurt other people. When it was written, some people thought it was acceptable to say things like that but we don’t feel that way today. I am going to do some more research about this and we can talk about it more tomorrow so we know what to look for and what to do if we see something like that in the future”
Corrie 18:03: It’s definitely not a problem to model to kids that you don’t know everything. In fact it’s really, really good to model that you don’t know everything. In fact it’s really good to know that. Admitting you don’t have the answer is more valuable than telling a half truth. And I firmly believe that kids need to see adults think through stuff, and be involved in those discussions. It not only models the process for them and helps them understand that it’s ok to change views on things, but also that adults can be wrong, and not knowing everything is ok. Kids are smart and they can handle frank age appropriate conversations – you know your child or classroom best so you know the level of information you are prepared to say or allowed to say in the case of a classroom to share with them but it’s really important that you DO share this information with them. Ignorance isn’t actually bliss…
Ale 19:04: Absofrigginlutely! I am a firm believe that the most important thing we can teach our children in this day and age is how to think about something, how to question it and it’s motives. How to get under the surface of what we see or read and ask ourselves, what idea are they selling, cuz everybody’s selling us some kind of idea, and is it good? BAd? True? False? We live an age that is all about media flying at everyone, and kids need the tools, to dissect, understand, judge, and make good decisions.
Kelly 19:41: yesssss Ale! Yes. Even though we can and should be making an active choice to not to have super problematic books in our homes, I am also realistic that my child is going to encounter problematic messages while he is out in the world. He’s going to be given those books at school or a friend’s house and see problematic things out in the world. It’s my job to help him sort through that and ask questions so that he can think critically, speak truth to power, and have the tools to recognize when there is injustice right there in front of his eyes.
Corrie 20:18: so it’s not just the single act of not having Dr. Seuss books.. as an example…that isn’t going to solve the problem… you collective, universal you, have to be active in speaking about WHY you don’t have those books with your kids, with their teachers, and with others in your family and community. Because we need to teach young people and assist them in finding the common threads between what is wrong with those books and the other media messaging that we all encounter in life and speak with kids about these issues. If we begin these conversations at a young age, kids will be able to think through and make decisions on their own about problematic situations, and make their own informed choices.
Ale 21:02: So let’s set the stage here: let’s say I just found out my favourite book from childhood is problematic. Whoops. Existential crisis can commence. Now what? Perhaps I already shared the book with my own kids or students, what do I do? Let’s break down some of the steps I can be taking to be a more effective and active ally now that we know better. Know better, do better right?
Kelly 21:40: So we are asking open ended questions, we are working on teaching kids to think critically, we are advocating to remove harmful books from spaces that they can do further harm, we are talking to friends about why it might be ok to chuck that super racist series of books in the recycle bin.. What else can we do?
Corrie 21:51: I am a big fan of media literacy for kids in general, and especially for figuring out why something might be in a book, and why it might not be. There is a very smart woman named Vanessa Rhinesmith that I’m completely obsessed with, that I’ve seen a few times and she speaks at length on thinking about who is left out of a narrative, and if that’s intentional or not. And I think this is a super helpful reframe to have when looking at books, too. She’s not even involved in the publishing industry at all, she just mentioned it off hand. That’s something that we always need to be thinking about. We can’t be afraid to call out inequity when we see it, especially when there are little ears around who hear everything.
Kelly 22:50: Everything! Yeah I agree and asking open ended questions… unexpected questions when you are doing all kinds of things, even just out existing in the world or in a store helps kids to build those critical thinking skills. Give them a chance to wonder why are having a certain festival in your city, or give them an opportunity to ask why the person on the billboard looks like they do.To your point Corrie, why isn’t a certain other type of person not on that billboard? Who is being left out? There is so much media coming at them all the time from all directions that you need to take the time to slow them down and give them the space to think and ask questions back to you. Lean into their inquiry… you will probably learn something from them too! You can empower them to ask their teachers and other caregivers big questions about books, media, and assignments, and back them up if there is pushback from those people.
Corrie 23:48: I implore you as well, to think about why something might be problematic to others when it’s not directly problematic for you. Especially for white people, the world was pretty much designed for us post-colonization (which also Indigenous folx also refer to as post-apocalyptic). You know, we need to use our privilege to adamantly say when something isn’t right, whether that’s seeing an author slated to speak nearby when you know they had allegations against them, if you notice that a classroom bookshelf is unbalanced in its representation, or what have you.I really don’t think that any moment that you notice is too small and say something about.
Kelly 24:38: Snaps to that. I couldn’t agree with you more. Ok. I think we need to wrap things up on that point. Which is hard because per usual I think the three of us would stay up all night and yell about this. But we want to turn the question back to you though: Head over to our Instagram @picturebookstagang and tell us what books you find problematic that everyone seems to love and maybe we will do a live podcast fight club in the future.
Ale: Yesss I am here for this, bring me you salt people!
Corrie: we might be in big trouble haha
Kelly: Really big trouble hahaha. So much trouble, ok so we want to thank you for joining in on our first discussion about nostalgia, kid lit classics, and Librarian Fight Club here on the Picture Bookstagang podcast. You can follow us on instagram at @picturebookstagang and be sure to subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts! Be sure to drop us a note and let us know – What are you reading?