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Black History Month

Black History Month has never been much more than another one of those areas that receives emphasis during the school calendar. It’s March now, and that means another ethnic holiday is to be celebrated soon. Even though it’s now over, Black History Month became very poignant to me this morning as I read through the obituaries of my hometown newspaper. I noticed the name of a fellow that sounded like an old friend of my father’s. After reading the obituary, I suspect that my dad and I were not alone mourning the loss of Ron Parker, a man who referred to my father as “Cuz.” Dad returned the favor, and the joke, whenever he saw Ron across the desk, store, or street.

Ron Parker was the first African-American I ever remember encountering. I remember him coming into a barbershop while I was there. I don’t remember his business there, but I’m sure it was just to say hi and catch up with all the regulars. His crisp, white uniform shirt stood out to me, but so did his demeanor. He exuded confidence, friendliness, and all those other qualities six-year-old boys read about policemen having.

I knew that Ron was an African-American, but that seemed to be as about as important as me being six. Those were just the facts of life. I knew Ron liked people because he spoke to everyone, including me, and treated everyone the same. What I did not know at the time was that Ron had become the first “person of color” to join the police force almost thirty years prior to my first encounter with him during the 1960s.

The details of the obituary provided more information about the man my dad called “Cuz.” The details of his career seemed as brilliant and crisp in retrospect as my first memory of that starched white shirt. He had served the city’s police force in nearly every capacity possible, including a short tenure as acting chief. After retirement he began working as a driver’s education teacher. People learned how to drive, but I surmise they learned a lot about how to treat one another too. Had I known Ron better, I probably would have heard some of his own accounts of integrating a city’s police force.

Perhaps Black History Month needs more personal stories about the Ron Parkers of this world, and less about the event itself. My primary and secondary education mentioned slaves, and that was the extent of it. We need to know African-American history, because at some point, it becomes our history too. I was fortunate to be a very small footnote in a page of history that included Ron Parker. We have a shared and common history at one small point in time. However brief the encounter, it has shaped my thinking and my acting for a number of years. Good history lessons are not only informational; they challenge us to take action. It has taken more than forty years for me to grasp the origin and fullness of this lesson. Perhaps it will not take others so long.

A SLAM Week

In a small school, the School Library and Media (SLAM) guy can wear many different hats and this week was no exception. In fact, it was a week that made me remember why I LOVE MY JOB.

At one moment I was helping kids with their research papers in all phases of the process and conducting a weeding project of the catalog.  The next I was revising a draft of the school improvement plan and troubleshooting some computer problems down the hall while running a remote installation of Second Life for a workshop next week.  Did I mention that the school is embarking on a new publicity campaign called the Andrews Advantage and that I was making some poster sized reprints of historic photos? And the list goes on and on.

Sometimes it seems as if nothing is getting completed, and new items are added to the growing list of tasks. Taking time to reflect and talk with others, especially students, makes me realize that a great deal is being accomplished and that it is making a difference in the lives of our students. Can’t wait till next week!

Cora Can Cook for Me Any Day

Lazo Gilmore, Dorina K., and Kristi Valiant. Cora Cooks Pancit. Walnut Creek, CA: Shen’s Books, 2009.

 Books about food should always make one want to eat. The ability of any writer to communicate taste into adequate words is as much art as it is a skill.  Another desirable outcome of food books is that one is driven to their own kitchen by an irresistible urge to follow in the footsteps of the cook/author.  Sounds like a good movie?

 Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore has created a children’s book that fulfills all of the above criteria and more. Not only has she created a book about cooking Filipino dishes, but she has shared a story that could have played itself out in kitchens around the world. The idea of daughters (and sons too) watching momma cook  and getting to help as a rite of passage is very familiar.  However, the connection to family history and one’s cultural heritage is not often so well connected.

That connection to culture is reinforced by Valiant’s illustrations that bring out the vivid colors of noodles, onions, and mushrooms simmering in a dish. Those colors, like the pleasant smells of the food, waft throughout the entire house and book.

Cora Cooks Pancit should appeal to a wide audience of educators, librarians, parents, and foodies.  The multicultural aspects of the book and its ability to bring together family make it a necessary inclusion in early learning environments. Most of all, this book will appeal to kids who like to read and then do.  Isn’t that the point?

 5 out of 5

John Parker

Media Coordinator

Andrews High School

50 HS Drive

Andrews, NC  28901

 

www.slamguy.wordpress.com

 

More Than Biography

Bass, Hester, Walter Inglis Anderson, and Earl B. Lewis. The Secret World of Walter Anderson. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press, 2009.

Hester Bass has given her readers a glimpse into the secret world of Walter Anderson, where man and nature naturally combined to produce art. This world is safely entered into by children and adults. It is a world that welcomes the one that is seeking shelter and that freely gives of itself to those so inspired to follow.

Readers will actually find two separate works in this one volume. The first section depicts Walter’s story with the island The second offers more background on the art produced, includes a bibliography, and is intended for an older audience. This book fills a huge void in most traditional educational systems by creating awareness of more American artists.

The illustrative content in The Secret World of Walter Anderson answers the challenge: How does one illustrate the life of an artist and not be tempted to imitation? E. B. Lewis’ use of watercolor captured Walter Anderson without attempting to recreate his art. This use also restated Anderson’s relationship between himself and the environment.

All art teachers and school librarians will want to make sure that this book is available from PreK-12. The opportunities to integrate science and art abound. Public libraries will also want to consider adding it to their collection if they are located in a coastal region or have a thriving arts community.

 4 out of 5

John Parker

Media Coordinator

Andrews High School

50 HS Drive

Andrews, NC 28901

http://www.slamguy.wordpress.com

Three Cups of Tea and Me

“Three Cups of Tea” might be a book that propels the reader into a broader and more enlightened view of the world; then again, maybe not.  There are few reasons not to like the book.  The jury has long since delivered its verdict. “Three Cups” provides adventure that ranges from alpine to urban. The story recounts one man’s struggle to make a difference, despite having little more than a vision that was incomplete. But, it is more.

 

The story could well be the story of most people and how they learn, or do not learn from their own experience. It is not a how-to manual for do-gooders, but Mortenson certainly shares some valuable insight about presenting his proposal in a variety of contexts.

 

Certainly, the story is about the power and necessity of literacy. That story is cross-cultural and it may not always play out in such exciting ways. However, it is just as necessary to realize that the need is not confined to a continent thousand of miles away. It exists in my school, town, and county where children do not have access to print materials in the home. Some have no access to materials in the school because of unavailability in their native languages.  Others have little desire and do not see the point because of generational deprivation.

 

What can we do? We can read “Three Cups” while asking the question, “How can I and this book make a difference in my community?” Is it trite to say that we need to think global and act local? We can buy this book, or one on a want list and donate it to a public or school library. We delight in accepting things from the community at Andrews High! We can be like Greg Mortenson and enlist the support of countless others to the cause. We can hope, because of the action we have taken together, that peace and justice will become a generational inheritance.

 

John Parker

Media Coordinator

Andrews High School

50 HS Drive

Andrews, NC  28901

 

The School Library and Media Guy

http://www.slamguy.wordpress.com

Community at Work

Within the last month I have asked members of our school and local communities for help adding resources to our media center.

Wow!

Over 250 works of recent hardback and paperback fiction have been added from just five donations.

The conversations  have been as meaningful as the donations. People are joining together with a common cause. But is the cause the school or the love of books?  I think it is both- and I’m glad it is happening and that I made the appeal for help.