Progressive mamas know that if you want to raise your babies to grow up to be good citizens, there is no time to waste. Folks don't generally turn eighteen and suddenly begin thinking about the evils of racism, sexism, corporate greed and environmental degradation and their responsibility to do something about it. They mainly only care if they are raised caring.
Citizenship education starts with breastmilk and bedtime stories, but in a society in which both human milk and literacy have somehow managed to become topics of great controversy, and in which children tend to be kept "protected" from knowledge of the world they will inherit, breastmilk and bedtime stories can start to seem downright subversive. That's okay - we are kind of subversive when we love. We are subverting a paradigm of fear and oppression and creating a better world. The Subversive Children's Book Club is here to help with all of your citizenship education needs.
This feature will provide weekly lists (so many lists!) and the occasional review of quality children's literature dealing with equality, peace, environmentalism, democracy and other progressive values. To introduce the feature today, however, I am going to leave you with part of the the text of my essay that was published in Mamaphiles #4: Raising Hell.
It sums up the idea and introduces the lists to come!
Reading the Revolution At Bedtime
There are many things I want my daughters to know and care about. I want them to treat all people equally and help all people to be treated equally by society. I want them tread lightly on the earth and to work for peace in the world. In our family, we try hard to raise loving and socially and environmentally responsible citizens. We discuss politics with our children, we take them to rallies and marches and conferences and campaigns. I think exposure to the activities of participatory citizenship is very important. We do something else, too, though. We read. And I think that might be more important to their developing values than the rest.
How we read! We read stories about peace and equality and the earth. About the issues that affect people. We read about history and social issues, our past and their future. I am always looking for novels and picture books that will help my kids learn the values that our family hopes they will commit to in order to help this world become a better place for everyone.
In our reading, we have come across so much. We have learned the women’s history that they never teach in school and the histories of the many diverse peoples whose accomplishments have shaped our world every bit as much as the accomplishments of the white men that did make it into the history books. We have learned about the mysteries of sex and the beauty of reproduction. We have learned about loving and caring for the earth and each other. We have read about different ways of seeing God, learning what tiny prisms we all are to reflect the unknowable Divine, and how important it is to respect each person’s unique piece of revelation and Light. We have learned about the devastations of war and the daily work of peacemaking that should always permeate our lives. We have learned that no one is ever perfect and that we are beautiful in all our flaws and should be as gentle with ourselves as with each other.
I hold off on books that may discuss violent events (even in a useful way) until the age of seven with my kids, as seven is when a child’s mind develops the ability to filter what it absorbs. I believe in non-violence and want to raise non-violent children. Since the minds of younger children are indiscriminately absorbent, we wait to tackle stories that include violence. There are many other stories to read in the meantime.
We read the revolution in my family. We read it at bedtime and on the porch and around the dinner table. Reading to my children is an important part of my resistance to a dominant culture that values oppression when I value people and peace. The following are lists of some of the best books I have found to teach the values of peace, social justice, diversity and environmentalism to my kids. Maybe you will enjoy some of them. I would love to know of the books that help your family live their values as well. Happy reading!