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Transformative Magic: Considering Zetta Elliott’s Dragons in a Bag

Erin Hoopes


I saw a social media post recently in which librarians were asked to share their favorite recommendations for read aloud books for early elementary students. Nearly all the responders suggested books by white authors, until a commenter noticed and pointed it out. A conversation ensued about how we, as librarians, need to change the way we recommend books. If we want to serve all children and all families, we must pay close attention to what stories we highlight, to whom, and why. American institutions have been dominated by white culture since their inception, and librarianship is no exception. As librarians, we must actively and continuously strive to change the way we select, purchase, consume, and recommend books. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas writes, “Since troubling discourses of colonialism and supremacy are transmitted via childhood stories, it is absolutely critical that these functions of children’s literature are revealed, historicized, and interrogated.” We can use the theory of critical multiculturalism to critique the way we practice librarianship, in addition to the way we analyze texts. As Maria José Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman write, “critical multicultural analysis . . . is literary study as social change.”

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