#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Teachers As Leader-Activists

"If the teachers marched, people would notice, and change would come." - Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace and art by Charly Palmer.

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

The Teachers March! (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace Illustrated by Charly Palmer
Published by: Calkins Creek (2020) Book Award: NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book (2021) ISBN: 162979452X (ISBN13: 9781629794525) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

The title of this picturebook immediately appealed to me as a teacher-educator. It was illuminating knowing how the formidable resolve of a group of courageous teachers was pivotal during the Civil Rights movement – yet there is very little that has been written about them – unlike, say, the stories written about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, for example.

While there is that sense of urgency in the narrative, there was also a compelling storytelling aspect to it – and I was not surprised to find out that the husband and wife author team are trained as investigative journalists and had written quite a number of stories on people of color who have broken down barriers and are change agents. Yet, the art of Charly Palmer was just visually arresting – see for example the image above with the skewed perspective, and the young boy looking directly at the reader – as if demanding for change.

I find the image above quite powerful as well – everything indicative of the power difference with the White police officers towering above everyone despite the fact that there are only two of them. Such is the imbalance in terms of how power is weighted – yet, there is also strength in numbers and the fortitude brought about by a palpable sense of rightness and justice.

The image above also conveys triumph – the act of voting portrayed as bigger than all the people of color queued up for this right of a citizen in one’s own country. I loved reading the Authors’ Note with actual photographs of the teacher leaders featured in this story: Reverend F. D. Reese, Joyce Parrish ‘Neal – daughter of Too Sweet Parrish, and Coach Lawrence Huggins – described to be “strong and fearless.”

While there was mention of violence perpetrated against the teacher-marchers, it could have gone much worse – and the Afterword shows the many significant events that followed this teachers’ march, and had been in large part, ignited by the courage of these teacher leaders. Let me end with a quote from the book that I find immensely moving.

Leaders. That’s what people called the teachers. The teachers were the somebody somebodies of the community. College educated. Shiny leather shoes. Suits and Sunday brooches seven days a week. No group like that had marched for freedom before.

If the teachers marched, people would notice, and change would come.

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 103 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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