The Norwood libraries feature diverse literature as the cornerstone of our program to provide a window into the lives of children from cultures all around the world. Through memoirs, novels, folktales, fairy tales, trickster tales, myths, and legends Norwood students are introduced to the variety – and the core commonality – of the human experience. Lower school library students enjoy titles such as Akimbo and the Lions, Nadia’s Hands, Mice and Beans, and Dim Sum for Everyone.They study folktales and legends to track the way ancient tales travel the world, picking up different cultural details as the story spreads. Children are fascinated to learn that the Cinderella story originated in ancient China (where tiny feet were prized) and that Brer Rabbit stories were adapted from Africa’s traditional Anansi tales.
In the Middle School, several remarkable books allow Norwood students to experience how children their age live around the world. Every fifth and sixth grader hears The Circuit, a classic immigrant memoir by Francisco Jiménez about his experiences entering America illegally as a little boy with his family in the 1950s to work the migrant circuit in California and The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis about a girl forced to masquerade as a boy in order to provide for her family while living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water based on the lost boys of Sudan and Li Keng Wong’s memoir Good Fortune: My Journey to Gold Mountain expand the range of cultures and experiences presented in library classes. In both libraries holidays provide the opportunity to hear core stories from various cultures, ranging from Hispanic folktales during Hispanic Heritage Month to Hanukkah tales by Isaac Bashevis Singer to O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi to Chinese myths and legends during Chinese New Year to traditional African and African American folktales during Black History Month.
In addition to the diversity of literature highlighted in library classes, the collection of books in the two libraries purposely includes quality works representing every constituent. Seeking out excellent diverse material is a core mission of Norwood’s acquisition policy and goals. Frequently changing library displays feature various cultures and celebrations and provide another opportunity to highlight a variety of books.
Norwood’s visiting author program offers another opportunity for the librarians to expose Norwood students to diverse voices. During their time at Norwood, the goal is for every student to hear at least one acclaimed visiting author who they feel represents “them.” We want every Norwood student to realize that they have an important story to tell that deserves to be heard. Joseph Lekuton of Kenya, Eloise Greenfield, Lulu Delacre, Lisa Yee, Jacqueline Woodson, Jerry Pinkney, and Ellen Oh are recent visiting authors who have masterfully conveyed this important message to our students.