Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review -- Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix

REVIEW -- Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices on Netflix

As I write this, Marley Dias is 15 years old. When she was 10, she launched a book drive called #1000BlackGirlBooks in order to collect and donate books featuring Black girls as the protagonists. Her campaign aimed to raise 1,000 books, but it became hugely successful and garnered international attention and support, raising well over 12,000 at last count. She has continued to be an activist for literacy and racial justice, particularly promoting diversity and justice through literature. She's also written a book of her own: Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! 

Marley Dias Gets It Done -- And So Can You!
Now, Marley the host of a sweet new series on Netflix called "Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices." If you grew up watching "Reading Rainbow" featuring host LeVar Burton, I suspect you'll like this series! 

While "Bookmarks" is focused on children's books by Black authors and about Black characters, I think it has something to offer for all children. The stories all speak to experiences common among children that, although portrayed through Black voices and characters, most likely will apply to non-Black children too. As a white woman, I saw and heard experiences in these books that were absolutely relevant to my childhood -- concerns about belonging, experiences with my hair and appearance, feelings of worry and hope and joy, and much more. 

Each episode features one book read by the author or by a celebrity, and each is short -- just right for children who might not have long attention spans. The episodes also end with the readers asking questions and speaking directly to viewers. A few of the readers also share stories from their own lives and ask questions during their readings.

While the series is focused on books with Black characters and written by Black authors, several of the books address children of other races and diverse experiences. In particular, I am thinking of The Day You Begin written and read by Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson's book covers having a different name, different skin, different food, and much more. Woodson also talks, after reading the book, about why the illustrations include rulers throughout the story (you'll have to watch the episode to find out what the rulers mean!).

As a child, I would have loved to draw while watching and listening to a show like this. 

I hope that you will watch the series with your children and take some time at the end of every episode to answer and discuss the questions posed by the readers. If you are homeschooling, you could also use the questions as prompts for writing assignments or art projects -- it would be fun to answer some of the questions by doing a drawing or painting, even for younger kids.

All of the books and the questions the readers ask at the end of the episodes are about celebrating and loving oneself and those around us, despite our uniqueness and differences. 

You can learn more about the show HERE, and if you have Netflix, you can watch the show HERE.

We're linking the books below as well, just in case you want to order any of them BEFORE watching the show -- that way you and your kids could read along with each episode! So far, there are 13 books across 12 episodes. 

I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
I Am Enough by Grace Byers

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

ABCs for Girls Like Me by Melanie Goolsby

 Pretty Brown Face by Andrea and Brian Pinkney

 Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker

 Firebird by Misty Copeland 

 Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester

 The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

 I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown

 Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

  We March by Shane Evans

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Moms Who Read: How to get back into reading after a slump

Moms Who Read: How to get back into reading after a slump

A version of this is cross-posted at my reading blog, Caffeinated While Reading. 

I've heard from many friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers that the global pandemic, social injustice sparking protests and riots across the country, concerns about school at home AND working from home, and many more concerns have caused them to feel lost, confused, unfocused, and generally unable to engage with their usual interests and habits.

And, I'm right there with all of you.

For a few months, I struggled to keep reading and engaging in my other interests and hobbies -- of which, reading is my favorite -- and the further I got from those things, the worse I felt about myself and life in general. 

I spent hours and hours scrolling on my phone, watching television without paying attention, picking up and setting down books and hobbies, and just not enjoying anything. I am already predisposed to depression and I felt like I was slipping pretty quickly into a massive depressive episode. Without making some changes quickly, I knew it was going to just get worse and worse.

So, I decided to be proactive and set up some rules around my needs, interests, and the way I was living life in order to create new habits and re-ignite old ones. I'm still struggling on some days and sometimes during moments of pretty good days, but I feel like the changes I've made have helped me to not sink too far down, and I've reinvigorated my reading habit.

While they aren't perfect and life isn't happy rainbows and unicorns every day, these three tips have helped me to ramp up my reading again -- I hope they'll help you too. 

1. Read first thing in the morning

Like making your bed, going for a run, or any other good habit, if you read first thing in the morning, you'll be able to tick it off your list of accomplishments for the day. And, if you love reading as much as I do, it will start your day on a positive note. 

I've been finding that if I start my day with 20 minutes of reading -- my personal minimum amount of time -- then I usually come back to reading later in the day. And, because I love reading so much, I don't mind getting up earlier just to read.

2. Have a designated reading spot

I don't just read anywhere in my home. Instead, I consciously cultivated a corner as my reading nook. Is it special and fancy with grand bookcases and luscious furnishings? Nope. Not at all. But, it is comfortable with a stack of books at the side of my reading chair and ottoman, a few blankets, and a table for a cup of coffee or glass of water, and it has great natural light during the day with a lamp for darker days or the evening. I don't do much else sitting there. That spot is reserved just for reading. And, because it's cozy, I love to sit there, so I read a lot by cultivating a special, comfortable reading experience. 

Chances are, you can get your kids reading more too if you just make it a given for everyone in the house that in order to use this comfy space, they need to be engaged with a book.

3. Read something easy or familiar

My TBR (to be read) pile is quite large with some pretty heavy reading material -- I like complex topics, but also what my mom once called "depressing" genres. Right now, I just can't handle that type of material when the world feels darker, heavier, and more depressing than at any other time in my life.

I've given myself a break and instead picked up lighter and easier books. I've been reading some chick lit, young adult, and humor. I've also been reading some very short books and children's books, as well as re-reading books I love and am already overly familiar with. 

A friend and I planned to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and to have a virtual dinner date to discuss the book, but I found it so heavy and sad (it's about the effects of slavery through several generations and from Africa to the US) that I had to put it down. By following the three habits above, I've managed to go back to the book in small chunks, interspersed with some of my favorite chick lit novels.

It's OK to put in some focused work at renewing your reading habit. It's OK to set up a comfy spot that you use just for reading. It's OK to read books that you normally wouldn't pick up simply because the genre or reading level is easy. 

Drop a comment and let us know what tips and tricks you've used to get back into reading or other habits and hobbies that have gone by the wayside due to the state of the world.
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