Friday, December 26, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
By Sylvester Brown Jr.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
If not for Moses, Noah, Jughead Jones, Spider-Man and Richard Wright, I may have turned down Sarah Beaman-Jones' invitation.Beaman-Jones heads up LIFT: Missouri's Literacy Resource Center. She recently sent me an e-mail asking if I would be a "guest reader" for her group's "Celebrating Readers' Rights" Dec. 8 event. The reading was organized to bring attention to issues such as "intellectual freedom," censorship and banned books in the United States."Censorship?" What is this, Saudi Arabia? I thought banning books in this country went out with burning witches at the stake.Apparently, I'm wrong. Each year the American Library Association releases a list of "Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books." The list includes high-profile adult and children's book authors like J.K. Rowling, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Kurt Vonnegut, Lois Lowry and Judy Blume.
Some libraries and schools use this list when stocking shelves or compiling curricula.Beaman-Jones' organization opposes book censorship. It's a "violation of intellectual freedom," her letter explained. As literacy educators and advocates, she added, we must affirm the "importance of free speech and education as a human right."Ditto! Count me in, I wrote back.I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box but, thank God, I fell in love with reading at an early age. Whatever success I enjoy today, is directly correlated with my fascination with the printed word.When I was a child, Mama forced Bible stories on her 11 kids. My imagination was sparked by tales of prophets parting the sea, slaying giants, hanging out unscathed in lion's dens and feeding masses with unending quantities of magical fish and bread.The love affair continued when I was introduced to comic books. Back in the day, 10 cents brought fabulous and funny adventures into my poverty-filled world. In my mind, I could leap tall buildings in a single bound, "Flame on," "Hulk out" or hang out with Archie, Betty and Veronica at Riverdale High.For me as a young man, desperately ignorant of his own history, Alex Haley's "Autobiography of Malcolm X," Richard Wright's "Native Son" and Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" helped fill the void of the complicated but rich "black experience" I knew little about. The audacious idea to write for a living was inspired by these gifted black authors.Richard Wright's book "Black Boy" is on the banned book list, as well as Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird."Maggie Dyer, the literacy coordinator with LIFT, explained why:"The top three reasons books make the list are because some find them sexually explicit, or they have offensive language or they're unsuitable for young readers." Most people who challenge books "have good intentions," Dyer said."They're concerned with protecting children. That's good, but where does it stop?" Dyer asked. "When a book is challenged or removed from a library, that's a voice that may not be heard." The ALA puts out the list based on the number of letters challenging books it receives. The organization analyzes, reviews and judges the merits of the complaints. Dyer takes exception to what some deem "unsuitable." For instance, she said, the graphic nature of "Black Boy" may indeed turn off a group or an individual but for someone who may have shared my life experience, the book could be the key to literary advancement."Schools may choose books for students that have to do with curriculum but one way to become a better reader is being able to choose a book that may not be rosy, but messy — something that mirrors their life experience."Throughout our history, people have tried to suppress intellectual freedom. We support the belief that ideas should be allowed to be written about, read and discussed — with criticism — but without restrictions." Libraries I visit have sections marked "adults," "young adults" and "young readers." Why isn't this enough to stop kids from getting their hands on books that aren't age-appropriate? I asked Dyer.It is, in most cases, she explained. The ALA publishes the list but leaves the decision to stock or not stock books up to individual libraries and educational institutions. Some abide by the list, others don't. The ALA does not advocate banning challenged books.That's a good thing. Several of the banned or "challenged" books are my daughters' favorites. Lexi, 13, has read the Harry Potter series and "The Giver" by Lois Lowry and other books on the list. I'm not sure who likes Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones series more, my little one, Kyra, who is 7, or her parents. Imagine my surprise when I saw Park's name on the list. Dyer said people say Park's character encourages "disobedience," uses words like "stupid" and "dumb" and takes liberties with traditional spelling. Maybe so, but in the words of Junie B., "Wowie, wow, wow," does Kyra really enjoy those books.Which gets back to my point about the power of reading. To be honest, Lexi has gotten her hands on a book or two that raised age-appropriateness questions. But the spark in her eye when she discusses books with her parents or her unquenchable appetite for more literature minimized my fears. I'm not saying we should stack libraries with any old book and let kids go willy-nilly. I'm saying that parental guidance, trained librarians and books separated by age-appropriateness in schools and libraries should override banishment.Other regional groups such as the Literacy Roundtable and Literacy for Social Justice Teacher Research Group are involved with the readers' rights event next month. The event is necessary, Dyer said, because there are people like me, who aren't aware that books are still banned in this country.The e-mail asking that I become a "guest reader" said I'll be among librarians, "literary educators" and advocates ready to educate the community, take a stand for "free speech" and fight "censorship."There's a noble, heroic resonance to those words. Helping to part the waters of misunderstanding, tackle the giant of censorship, helping people sail up, up and away from narrow-minded restrictions ... Reminds me of something I read in a book.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I love cardboard boxes. We get so many different shapes & sizes in at work that I can't resist bringing them home every couple weeks at least. With the Holidays approaching, we've gotten in some pretty big ones containing whole displays. One was about 4 ft long & 2 1/2 ft wide, shoebox style & had extra cardbord inside for stabilizing the display. And it fit in the back of the CRV perfectly! Max saw it & immediatly got out the crayons & with a little help from our friend Beth, made a very cool pirate ship. Two days later it was a tank. Then it was a bulldozer. I wonder what it will be next?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
PS- For some reason, Cashew like spicy, so if you have any that you think I might be able to handle, send them on! I love spicy!
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
1) Max got to hold a claymore (HUGE sword-taller than me!) when we visited the SSAS booth where Ian's friend Chris was working. If you notice, Max is holding the sword all by himself, Chris is just steadying it to prevent Max from chopping me off at the knees. Max was on cloud 9! Now he wants one.
2) Leslie got to hold the sword too! Watch out Lucas!
3) Max tried falafel for the first time & didn't care for it. He did eat all the veggies & the pita that came with it though. Mmmm, more falafel for me! He did, however, really like the Bosnian version of apple strudel. I don't think Les got to eat very much of hers.
Friday, August 22, 2008
My plans were steady until my friend Anna R. said to me, "OMG, you look pregnant! I mean you looked pregnant on Wednesday, and its only Thursday, but you really look pregnant today." (Good thing I like her a lot!) Then one of Max's former teachers from the baby room did a triple take & felt comfortable enough to ask The Question. Last straw? When I walked into Max's school today to pick him up, his friend Amira came running up to me. While Max (obliviously) played with some other kids, Amira stood in front of me with her hands on her hips. Then she said (loudly), "Max's Mommy? Do you have a baby in your tummy, cuz I think you have a baby in there cuz your belly is getting FAT!" So much for the plan!
(I don't know why I was so surprised by this. I have popped out.)
After a quick recovery, I conned Max into leaving & we went straight home where we sat down to have a conversation. We talked about how I had been sick, & that I was feeling better & how I couldn't eat some foods & how that was OK because "I can eat all the pizza myself, Mommy." Then I told him the reason for all that was because I had a baby in my tummy & he was going to be a big brother. His reply? "A baby?(puzzled) A baby.(comprehending) I'm so excited!(in his trademark squeal) He has already started making plans for the new baby's arrival. He's even excited (for now) about sharing his room.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
How cool is this playground!
Instead of party games, we got crafty! The first step on the way to becoming a superhero? The perfect mask! You can't have the villians discovering your true identity!
Sadie, Finn, Mattias & Max, trying out their new superhero gear.
Max & Amira being silly
While the were here we got to see lots of neat stuff. First was a special exhibit on Grant & Lee at the MO History Museum as well as the newly redone exhibit on the 1904 World's Fair. Very cool! We went to Third Degree Glass Factory in hopes that we'd get to see some glass blowing but alas, it was too hot outside & none of the artists wanted to work that day. We did get to see lots of finished works, some that were absolutely amazing! I (of course) forgot to take my camera but Aunt Myrtle took some great pics that I bet she'll share. After 3rd Degree, we decided to take the brewery tour at Anheuser-Busch before InBev decides to screw it up & start charging for it. Or worse, for for the free beer at the end of the tour! All in all, it was a great visit & we can't wait for them to come back!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
You guessed it! Baby Cashew will be joining us around February 3, 2009!
No, we are not crazy (or celebrities) and will not be naming the kid Cashew. One of my nicknames for Max is Buster Peanut and since we're all a bunch of nuts, I thought Cashew had a nice ring.
We have not told Max yet, although he knows somethings up since I am just as sick this time as I was with him. We are going to wait a few months, until I really start to show, since 6 months is just too long to make him wait for his longed for sibling.
So even though this was a little sooner than we had planned, we are absolutely ecstatic and could hardly wait this long to tell all of you!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The North American Gathering for Clan MacLeod didn't start til 7/2 so we had a couple days to see some of the sights on our own. And what a city! We were staying at the University of Ottawa and it is perfectly situated for walking all over the city. Not to mention the fabulous weather! 75 degrees F & no humidity! If you've ever been in STL in the summer, you know why that is so amazing. View of Rideau Canal from our room.
View of the clock tower on Parliment Hill from our other window.
July 1st is Canada Day so we walked to Parliment Hill in the morning to watch the parade & then we planned to continue on to Major's Hill Park where lots of kid's activities were being held. There were so many street performers out that we kept getting distracted & never made it that far.
Just 2 of the acts performing around the city
After watching the street performers we wandered into Byward Market which was wonderful! It is a farmer's market that goes on for blocks. Seriously, it is about 8 blocks long & at least 3 blocks wide. There were so many vendors selling so many wonderful things. You could smell the strawberries, blackberries, blueberries & raspberries. One of the vendors let me have a little taste & it was amazing. The raspberries actually tasted like raspberries. I wanted to buy some of everything but since the dorm we were in only had a communal kitchenette I settled for a blackberry smoothie instead. Delicious!
Notre Dame, one of the oldest churches in Ottawa
Outside the Museum of Civilization with Parliment Hill in the background
The Gladish Family + Max
Max & his buddy Aiden G. at the Museum of Nature
Why are boys so fascinated by poop?
Pilot Max at the Canadian War Museum (Google it! Amazing Museum!)
Changing of the Guard at Parliment Hill
Top of the Canadian War Memorial
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the War MemorialThe next few pics are of a really neat peice of public art called Strathcona's Folly located in Strathcona Park. It was made using pieces of architectural history from the area and has all sorts of nook & crannies with surprises for the kids. Max climbed all over it looking for the little bronze animals.
Ian & Weeden Nichols, Regional VP for the Clan MacLeod Society, USA
We had a great time in Canada & can't wait to go back! Anybody want to join us?