I recently received a gift package from Alan Levine, a friend from Arizona. Two of my favorite items from the package are ones that I think are sort of gifts for my daughter, but really intended for me. These two items, I felt, give nods to digital citizenship.
The first is “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type.” As is clear from the title, it’s a book about cows that type. Not only do they type, but they use their typing to communicate with the farmer, to make demands. When he doesn’t respond, their demands turn to activism as they go on strike, and later as they rally the hens as well! In the end, the cows offer to give up their typewriter if their demands are met. At first, this ending disappointed me because I felt like they were giving up their means of empowerment for an immediate need. But, the ending has a twist, and I think there’s a lot we can read into this book about activism and the way in which writing (yes, typewriters are not usually what we mean when we discuss digital, but when explaining what a typewriter is to my child, I ended up explaining it like a computer keyboard that prints automatically, and she asked, “like magic?”). It’s about realizing the power of the word to empower the oppressed. Or, maybe, I’m just a critical pedagogue reading a little too much into it? I don’t think so.
The other gift I really appreciated was a “Women of the Commons” coloring book, a project by Kelsey Merkley. It doesn’t feel like one of those adult coloring books, because it doesn’t have those intricate patterns. Instead, it has these portraits of women involved in Creative Commons or open education in some way. I love that the book focuses on women from all over the world and highlights their achievements while remaining light.
Another great feminist gift I received this year, the best gift my daughter has had ever, hands down, is “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.” We got this gift from our friend Autumm Caines. The book has a double page on each of the featured women, one page bio and one page portrait (also by a female artist). The book has women from all over the globe and from all walks of life, from Cleopatra to Marie Curie to Malallah to Helen Keller to Maya Angelou to Michelle Obama. These are wonderful characters I would never have thought to introduce to my daughter at age 5! How this relates to the digital, is that after we finish each story, my daughter is often curious and asks questions about the person. When I don’t know the answer, we Google (or DuckDuckGo) it together, and she also likes to see photographs of the women. She has learned that knowledge need not ever stop at the pages of a book, but it can sure be a great starting point. I only wish the book’s title didn’t say “for Rebel Girls” because boys should read it, too! I would actually recommend this book for adults, too! We haven’t finished it yet because she likes coming back to some of the stories (like Hatshepsut and Cleopatra maybe because they’re royals from Egypt; Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, I think because her portrait is intriguing, and scientist Marie Curie, probably because she senses I like it).
So, there you have it. It frustrates me that my daughter gets to watch and read stories that irk me as a critical pedagogue (hello Cinderella), so it’s great to have these other books to fall back on. And, some day, I’ll talk to her about how they helped promote her critical thinking and activism.
What are your favorite children’s books for promoting criticality, activism or citizenship?
Banner image credit: Arslan, shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license