To Grow, Our Children Need Books

Amina Ogbu of Oakland loves books.

By Blanche Richardson, Manager of Marcus Books It was very, very sad and a dire premonition of the future of our children. A customer came into Marcus Books and spent almost $70 in books for young children – Christmas/Kwanzaa gifts. Two days later, she returned the books. The parents, she said, told her they were only using electronic devices to read books to their children. These young children may never have the experience of actually opening a picture book, the tactile experience of touching and turning the pages, learning to enjoy the fresh smell of ink on paper, seeing the beautiful illustrations by brilliant artists that adorn the pages as they were meant to be enjoyed, and never having beautifully executed books adorn their homes, starting their own libraries of favorite books. This, I found, was almost obscene in its disconnect from a cultural history that includes Africans producing the first books, elders who have handed down stories in our oral tradition, and finally, having those folktales and histories and cultural traditions in print for all eternity. As we all know, it used to be illegal for Blacks to read, write, and certainly a crime to possess a book in the “New World.” Yet, now, we are willing to relegate that tremendous, monumental, culturally essential ascent to actual published works to electronic nothingness. No books in the home, potentially no libraries with real books. Our “gift” to our children will be an awesome volume of e-books. Well, folks, don’t lose that I-Pad or that Kindle, because your library will be wiped out. I can’t imagine my own home without books. When I visit other people’s homes, that is the first thing I look at – their collection of books. It tells you so much about a person. Children’s books especially are not only essential to the budding and positive identity for our children that offset the horrendous and negative images in the media and on the Internet. They are also pure works of art. The list I offer below is a small reflection of the best books and illustrators that we have ever seen. All of the titles are multi award-winning books, garnering Coretta Scott King Awards, Caldecott Honors, and positions on New York Times Bestsellers lists. Buy a child a book. At least give them the option of having a “real” book versus the electronic version. Trust that it will make a huge difference in their early appreciation of literature, an appreciation of their history and culture – an experience that will serve them well throughout their lives. Most of us have memories of being read to when we were children; how comforting and profound that special time with Mommy or Daddy was – allowing us to turn the pages; not mom or dad pulling out an electronic device – how shallow and hollow and impersonal is that? A list of beautiful books for children: 1. Grace at Christmas, Mary Hoffman 2. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, Carole Boston Weatherford 3. Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Rail Road, Henry Cole 4. Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America, Andrea and Brian Pinkney 5. What Color is My World? The Lost History of African American Inventors, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 6. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, Kadir Nelson 7. I Have a Dream: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kadir Nelson 8. We Are the Ship? The Story of Negro League Baseball, Kadir Nelson 9. Beautiful Ballerinas, Marilyn Nelson Marcus Books in Oakland is at 3900 Martin Luther King, Jr. (510) 652-2344.  Marcus Books in San Francisco is at 1712 Fillmore St. San Francisco (415) 346-4222.
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