Happy Holidays from WITS!

Erin ToaleBooks, Diversity Initiatives, Inside WITS, Mission & Outcomes, Programs

WITS is officially closed for Winter Break and will reopen on January 4, 2022. During the time off, we here at WITS do a lot of reading! We want to share some book suggestions and activity recommendations for the WITS community to enjoy over the holidays as well.

Avoiding the Holiday ‘Balance Traps’

In this helpful blog about approaching winter holidays, Learning for Justice cautions educators to “avoid the holiday ‘balance traps’.” What does that mean? Even with good intentions, it’s common to default to an emphasis on Christmas during the December holidays. Here are three common pitfalls to avoid, as well as simple solutions for this time of year:

  • Only making superficial changes: “To help avoid this trap, examine what you are doing and ask others to help you critique your practices. Then work to equal out imbalances you see and to do a better job presenting holidays equally.”
  • Emphasis on December/Christian Holidays Only: “Take care to put as much emphasis and excitement into the important holidays you celebrate from January to November as to those you do in December.”
  • Exoticizing Holidays: Be culturally specific; make sure to provide well-researched context for holidays you are less familiar with.
Culturally Specific Pedagogy

What does ‘culturally specific’ mean? Rudine Sims Bishop coined the term to describe narratives that focus on a particular cultural group’s lived experience. The opposite of this is “culturally neutral”: characters appear diverse but the story itself does not include specifics about any certain culture. Both specific and neutral books play a role in development. It is very important for children to see themselves reflected in the stories they read (CPS student demographics are readily available if you’d like to learn more about Chicago’s student population). Are you overwhelmed and looking for a place to start? Here are some suggestions for culturally specific ways to celebrate the holidays:

  • American Society for Deaf Children’s ASL Stories for December Holidays features ASL retellings of favorite children’s books about Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa.
  • Chicago’s Black Santa, Andre Russell aka Dreezy Claus, shared his reading suggestions for the holiday season and more on WBEZ’s Reset. Be sure to pick up a copy of his book Dreezy Claus & The Boy Who Didn’t Believe!
  • Celebrate Jolabokaflod, aka yule book flood: the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books and reading together as a family on Christmas Eve.
  • Read Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington. Kwanzaa festivities celebrate African-American culture and community, culminating with a feast on the last night. Kwanzaa starts on Sunday, December 26, and ends on Saturday, January 1, 2022.
  • Make sure to include queer holiday stories in your lesson plans.

Lastly, here are some other WITS blogs that may be helpful to reference: Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors, Beyond Good Intentions: Diversity in Kid Lit, and Utilizing an Equity-Literacy Framework.

Holiday Titles from Ashley Bloom, WITS Chief Development Officer

“As a little girl, I remember reading The Polar Express with my mom. I remember the old looking sliver bell that she would place under the tree. And occasionally I would sneak to the living room, grab the bell and ring. I felt like I was at The North Pole, just like in the book. Books have a way of transporting us to magical places where we meet inspiring characters. Now as a mom of a three-and-a-half year old, I have the same joy of transporting her to magical places, and inspiring her through stories. Here is a list of a few of our holiday favorites. Happy Reading!”

Don’t Go Stir-Crazy: Try These Activities!

If you want EVEN MORE book recommendations, check out “Diverse Winter Picture Books“. Or, you can get a head start reading our next WITS Book Club book, Afterparties: Stories by Anthony Veasna So. Happy Holidays from all of us at WITS!