Artist Spotlight: Jerry Pinkney

This is a guest piece written by Jill Lauren, author of That’s Like Me!

Jerry Pinkney, picture from the foreword of THAT’S LIKE ME!

 

Jerry Pinkney has devoted much of his life to illustrating books for children. His award-winning picture books, such as Caldecott recipient The Lion & the Mouse, are beloved by generations of readers. For many readers, the fact that Jerry is also dyslexic makes his life story even more inspiring.

 

It’s been ten years since Jerry Pinkney wrote the captivating foreword to That’s Like Me! To celebrate, author Jill Lauren caught up with him for this interview. In it, young people ask Jerry questions about his art and motivations. His answers provide insights into his creativity and illuminate how his learning disability colors his artistic gifts.

 

Megan asked: What do you wish you knew when you first entered children’s publishing?

 

Jerry Pinkney: I entered because I was passionate about book making. I was a graphic design major in art school. But when I first started, book publishers didn’t really have a design department. The design of the book was up to the illustrator. So I was able to combine my two interests in illustrating books and contributing to the design. That’s how my first book, The Adventures of Spider (1964), was created.

 

Back then, my nine-to-five job was as a graphic design illustrator at Barker–Black Studio in Boston. This is how I supported my family. I worked on illustrating books after work. I had no understanding of the kind of rich life that children’s publishing would provide for me. I worked on books because I needed to do it—it made me feel good. I was contributing to something, I was exercising certain talents and gifts and passions that I had. It may be good that I didn’t know how the success of illustrating children’s books would change my life because it might have affected my passion.

 

But, mostly I wish that I had understood more the value of the process. And had enjoyed the many steps in creating the final art.

 

Emily asked: What was your favorite book as a child?

 

Jerry: Well, I didn’t read as a child. I did enjoy stories, and they were served up in two ways. One was that my mother was an amazing reader, a ferocious reader. So she read to us, usually from a book that was a collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables, or Uncle Remus’s tales. You can see that reflected in the work I do. And because I didn’t read, the other way stories were served up was the oral tradition, which is a Southern tradition of storytelling by listening to stories. I want my work to show the kind of energy and emotional content that I enjoyed in hearing someone tell a story.

 

We didn’t have a television. We had one radio that was in my parents’ room, so storytelling was a way of expressing and filling that space.

 

As a kid growing up, the barbershop was also amazing. I didn’t want to go to get my hair cut, but I loved the kind of language and storytelling among the older folks. It also was a sort of social center, the barbershop, so people would just come and tell stories and talk and solve the problems of the world. I remember listening.

 

So, there was no one specific favorite book. My fondness for listening to the stories from Aesop’s Fables and Hans Christian Andersen does impact my art, though, which can be seen in The Lion & the Mouse, The Ugly Duckling, and John Henry, for example.

 

Elliott asked: You often work with watercolor. Have you found it to be an easier medium to work with?

 

Jerry: No, not at all. There is something about watercolor that I think matches my personality. As a person with a learning disability, watercolor fits a certain need. Because watercolor is challenging, this medium gives me the opportunity to focus. I have to be in the moment with the medium, so it’s important to me because it helps me to concentrate.

 

Watercolor is also a medium that has its own surprises, and I think for a creative person, surprise is a reward. In order to be successful at watercolor, one has to also honor the certain properties and challenges that are built into the watercolor medium itself. Watercolor is not a medium that one can easily control. There is movement in watercolor. I never consider reworking watercolor, so there is some letting it be and going with that as I create. I build the movement into the work, and that creates some tension. Now, it turns out that all of this tension, this process of working with watercolor, gives the viewer a bridge into the work itself. People say that my work has a sense of being alive, which comes from my relationship with watercolor.

 

 

Thank you, Jerry, for dozens of spectacular children’s works and for your personal stories. We can’t wait for the gift of your next book!

 

Learn more about the book That’s Like Me!: Stories about Amazing People with Learning Differences at this link.

Artist Spotlight: Cornelius Van Wright

 

Cornelius Van Wright.

In our inaugural Artist Spotlight, we caught up with children’s book author and illustrator Cornelius Van Wright about his new book The Little Red Crane, creative inspiration, and the children’s publishing industry.

 

Star Bright Books (SBB): What was your inspiration for Dex the Spider Crane?

 

Cornelius Van Wright (CVW): The genesis of Dex started as a friendly conversation I had with Star Bright Books’s publisher [Deborah Shine] a few years ago. She had described to me how she could not stop watching a crane truck being assembled across from where she lived. I shared how I loved crane trucks ever since my father bought me a giant working toy crane when I was a child. We found out that we both had a fascination for trucks and cranes.

 

I drew her a picture of a crane. Later, she suggested I write a story about a crane. Excited, I bought tons of reference books on different cranes. In the very back on one of the books was a very small Crawler [Spider] Crane. That’s when the idea hit me.  Instead of a story about the many mighty cranes I saw, why not tell a story from the perspective of the smallest crane?

 

SBB: Why did you pursue children’s book writing and illustration as a career?

 

CVW: I have always loved children’s books. I still have many of the books my parents read to me when I was little. I loved escaping into the stories—they piqued my imagination.

 

In my final year of college, a visiting art director from a famous magazine saw my work and invited me to show him my portfolio. At the end of the visit he asked me why I wanted to be an illustrator. That question stuck in my head for years.

 

Finally, I understood what he was asking to me. What did I want to say as an illustrator? What was my reason for pursuing illustration? I stopped and re-examined my motives. I found that I was still looking at PBS children’s programs, even in college. These things reflected where my heart was. That is why I still have my children’s books from when I was little.

 

SBB: What do you wish you knew before entering the publishing industry? 

 

CVW: That a rich uncle or aunt were required. I had neither.

 

SBB: How has the industry changed since you started working as an illustrator? What are some challenges you still face?

 

CVW: I love the industry—not just working on children’s stories, but the people who work in the industry. Most of them have a beautiful passion for books that is inspiring.

 

The industry has changed dramatically over the years, however. It used to be an industry driven by love of books. Some books take years to catch on to the public. This was understood in the industry. However, many publishers have been taken over by large media conglomerates that are more interested in the fourth quarter. If a title doesn’t sell X amount of copies in X amount of months, “Off with it’s spine!” This is a sad new reality that seems to dictate what some publishers will take a chance on.

 

SBB: What is the favorite part of your job? 

 

CVW: I love seeing a book come to life. Equally, I love visiting classes and libraries and seeing children’s faces light up with their own inspirations. Some of the students run up to me and show me their drawings and ideas. They feel empowered. There is nothing like it!

 

SBB: Tell us about working with your wife, Ying-Hwa Hu, on book projects.

 

CVW: I love working with my wife. It is not always easy in terms of someone having a different opinion on an idea. But opening up to another point of view (teamwork) can actually strengthen the final product. It takes humbling oneself and entertaining the notion that that great idea you had may not have been a great idea. I have learned to trust and listen to Ying-Hwa’s opinions. I love working with her!

 

SBB: What illustrators of color do you admire? Have any of them inspired your works? 

 

CVW: There are many illustrators of color I admire. Too many to list them all. But a few that come immediately to mind are Jerry Pinkney, Allen Say, Leo and Diane Dillion, Kinuko Craft, Kadir Nelson, Faith Ringgold, and Shaun Tan. I am inspired by many artists. Inspiration can show up in many forms.

 

SBB: Is there an illustrated work you are most proud of? Why?

 

CVW: This eludes me.

 

SBB: What message do you hope to convey to young readers through your work? 

 

Cover illustration by Cornelius Van Wright.

CVW: Be free to imagine.

 

SBB: Who is your favorite children’s book character?

 

CVW: Too many . . .

 

SBB: Tell us one thing about you that readers would be interested to know.                                                                

CVW: I am a product of life’s detours. I’m still looking for the main road.

 

SBB: What advice would you offer to people of color interested in writing or illustrating? 

 

CVW: Please do not feel limited. What do you truly want to say? Do your homework(!) to find the best way to say it and share it.

 

Learn more about Cornelius and The Little Red Crane at this link:

 

starbrightbooks.com/index.php?id_product=704&rewrite=the-little-red-crane&controller=product

Five Ways To Help Your Child Develop A Passion for Reading

This is a guest piece written by Kayleigh Alexandra of MentionMe.

 

It’s always important to support reading in early childhood, but it becomes essential when children start to read on their own. Independent reading is a fundamentally different experience from being read to, which can lead to an initial drop in enthusiasm. Parents have a unique responsibility to help children overcome this lag. If you can manage it, children will  view reading as more than a utility. Here are some tips for helping cultivate a passion for reading.

 

From Read to Me by Judy Moreillon

Talk about your favorite book

When trying to get your child to see what makes reading so magical, one of the best things you can do is talk about a book that you feel deeply about. Maybe there’s a comic book you read countless times during your childhood or a novel that lifted your spirits while you were going through a difficult time. Perhaps there’s a children’s book you love to read again and again because one or both of your parents initially read to you.

 

By explaining what makes your favorite book so meaningful to you, and showing the passion you feel for it, you can help your child understand that reading is for more than just education or short-term entertainment. A great book can stay with you forever, giving comfort when facing challenges and helping to make good decisions.

Introduce relevant activities

Kids love playing, especially activities that let them make things and indulge their innate creativity. You can take advantage of this to encourage reading! Consider that many such activities feature reading as a necessary component. Even if your child isn’t quite convinced about independent reading, you can solidify it as a precursor to something fun, thus building a core positive association that can be refined over the years.

 

A great example of a suitable activity (or set of activities, to be more accurate) is a kids’ subscription box. If you pick something with a lot of variety (e.g. the Sago Mini has activities that range from crafting to finding places on maps), kids can get lost in the enjoyment of play and never notice how much reading they’re doing.

Use tie-ins with other media

It can be frustrating to position reading as a wonderful pursuit while your child wants to watch TV or play video games. Those things are flashier and more immediately arresting, so how can books compete? One way is to direct children to book tie-ins of TV shows, movies, or video games: sometimes these are direct adaptations; other times they feature central characters going on new adventures.

From Read to Me by Judy Moreillon

For instance, if your child loves Arthur (the longest-running animated children’s TV series in the US), introduce them to the many Arthur books. As it happens there are plenty to choose from, covering various accessible topics. If you think the move from TV or movies to books will be odd, you can read a book with your child, then let them take over when they get into the story. Their love of the characters should make all the difference.

Encourage them to write

Reading and writing support each other extremely well. The more you read, the more you have to write about. Conversely, the more you write, the more you appreciate reading and understand the effort and dedication that goes into it. As such, it’s a good idea to encourage your child to write their own stories. Offer them a prompt (ThinkWritten has a massive list) or help them develop their ideas.

 

It doesn’t matter how complicated a story is or how good it ends up being. What’s important is that your child is invested in the narrative process—and you can use their creative direction to find books they will enjoy reading. If they want to write about animals, for instance, look for books about animals.

Listen to their feedback

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do is listen carefully to your child’s feedback. It’s easy to come up with a plan for getting them to enjoy reading and just as easy to become frustrated when it doesn’t work as expected—but that frustration won’t achieve anything. Instead, talk to your child about what they think.

 

How do they view the books you suggest? Are they too long? Do they dislike the covers? Are there other books they’d prefer to read? Would they like you to read to them first? Even if they aren’t old enough to articulate their preferences very well, you can use their reactions to guide you. Every child is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Understanding Complex Linguistic Relationships Through Language Cognates

Have you ever noticed words in another language that look similar or even identical to words you know in English? Perhaps you’ve seen or heard these words in bilingual books, international films, and music. One example is the English word ‘important.’ In Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, the equivalent is‘importante’; in French and Romanian, it is the exact same: ‘important!’ While this may be an easy-to-recognize example, there are many other sets of words that are similar across many languages and being able to recognize and understand these similarities can aid tremendously in language learning and cultural fluency.

From A Fish To Feed, written by Ellen Mayer and illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu.

This similarity is not simply a coincidence! When a word has a similar sound and meaning in more than one language it is called a cognate word. A cognate occurs when two or more languages stem from a common parent language or an ‘ancestral language.’

 

Examples of ancestral languages are prevalent all over the world.

  • In Europe, the majority of spoken languages (including Spanish, French, English, Italian, and German) are derived from the same ancestral language, proto-indo-european or PIE. Although linguists and anthropologists don’t know exactly what the language looked like, by analyzing cognate words of the descendant languages, they have been able to piece together how PIE spread and developed into the languages we hear today.
  • In Africa, approximately a third of all Africans speak one of the Bantu languages, a group of related languages extending from southern South Africa, up to western Cameroon and through eastern Somalia. Linguists and anthropologists have studied this lingual relationship in order to better understand cultural and societal similarities and differences across the region.
  • In Asia, several languages have been traced to the same ‘Eurasiastic’ ancestral language, spread from eastern Europe throughout northern Asia. However, aside from this, not many connections have been made across other Asian languages.

 

Another way to understand language cognates is to look at the morphemes of a word, or the suffixes, prefixes, and roots that make up a word. When languages or words are derived from Greek or Latin, often times understanding the prefix or suffix can reveal a relationship across languages. One example is the Latin prefix ‘aud-,’ meaning ‘hear.’ In English, this prefix is seen in words such as ‘audience’ or ‘auditory.’ In Spanish, these words can be translated to ‘audiencia’ or ‘auditivo.’ By understanding this prefix, a multilingual speaker or learner can recognize the relationship connecting words across languages.

From Cake Day, written by Ellen Mayer and illustrated by Estelle Corke.

Understanding language cognates can be particularly beneficial for promoting language diversity and cultural fluency. By knowing the shared history and natural connection in our languages, language learners can begin to see the inherent connections in our local communities and global societies.

 

Language cognates can be especially beneficial to multilingual children. For young multilingual speakers, seeing and hearing cognate words across languages helps to build vocabulary and literacy in different languages and encourages continued language acquisition. Many teachers say that recognizing language cognates helps to learn tricky English spelling and grammar rules. Understanding the morphology of a word shared across languages also aids in literacy, analytical reading, and writing skills in childhood and adulthood. Parents raising multilingual children can use cognates to aid in communicating with people from differing cultures, as well as assist in explaining language similarities and differences to other language learners.

Supporting the Black Community through Black Owned Businesses

Part of anti-racist work is being conscious about our spending. While it is important to purchase books and consume media by Black authors, it also important to support Black owned bookstores, publishing companies, and community projects as they are the organizations advocating for these authors.  In accordance with this, we at Star Bright Books have compiled a list of five Black owned businesses, local to the Boston, MA area, as well as five Black owned publishing companies nationwide.  We hope that these lists provide you with options and inspiration moving forward with anti-racist work and conscious support.

 

Black Owned Local (Boston Area) Businesses

Frugal Bookstore

Black owned bookstore in Boston, MA

 

Print Aint Dead

Queer and Black owned bookstore/publishing initiative in Boston, MA

 

Susie’s Stories

Black owned bookstore in Rockport, MA

 

Studio 24 Graphix & Printing

Black owned print shop in Boston, MA

 

College Application Education Project

Black owned education company in Lynn, MA

 

Black Owned Publishing Companies (Nationwide)

Africa World Press and The Red Sea Press

Aims to provide high quality literature pertaining to the culture, history, and politics of Africa and the African Diaspora.

 

Black Classic Press

Publishes obscure but significant works about people of African descent. Republishes works that are out of print and out of memory.

 

Broadside Lotus Press

A nonprofit whose mission includes community engagement and publication.

 

Redbone Press

Publishes work celebrating the Black LGBT+ community.

 

Third World Press

Publishes literature related to the African American public. 

Benefits of Singing With Little Ones!

Singing and music have long been important parts of early childhood education and childrearing. Recent studies show that singing to babies and young kids has numerous neurological and cognitive benefits for the child, as well as social benefits for both the child and parent alike.

Interior of our new book Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! (illustration by Ying-Hwa Hu).

Many parents are uncomfortable singing to their children because they are not confident in their own singing abilities, instead relying on curated playlists and digital music to soothe their babies. Professionals point out, though, that the parent’s voice, not the song quality, is what matters. Singing to babies, both in utero and post-partum, increases babies’ ability to recognize their parents’ voices and appearances and cultivates feelings of safety and comfort in this recognition, thus fostering a strong bond between parent and child.

 

In conjunction with cultivating the parent-child relationship, parents should pay close attention to their baby’s various reactions to songs (cooing, babbling, giggling, pointing, etc.) and respond to them accordingly. In her book Talk to Me, Baby!, the great early childhood expert—and our dear friend—Betty Bardige explains, “The baby’s coos, babbles, and facial and body language let the adult know when they are in sync and when they need to reestablish their connection.” Listening and modifying the networks of communication will help strengthen the bond between parent and child, as well as further establish channels of verbal and non-verbal communication.

 

There are additional benefits associated with singing to babies. Creating a schedule for specific songs at certain times of day can help create a routine for your child. Babies feel secure when they are able to anticipate what will happen next, thus associating certain actions or times of the day—like a diaper change, dinner, or bedtime—with certain songs. This is sometimes called verbal mapping, a term used to describe the adult narration of a baby’s life. Putting this narration into a song routine also helps babies develop more positive associations with everyday activities. 

 

New research suggests that singing to babies helps improve cognitive development in young children. One study shows that singing songs can increase a child’s attention span and positive displays of emotion. Other studies illustrate a correlation between exposure to music and rhythm and positive social connections. This means singing to an infant may not only support their immediate cognitive growth, but can also have a lasting impact on their social development.

Interior of our new book Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! (illustration by Ying-Hwa Hu).

Furthermore, singing is often a child’s first exposure to language.  Singing a variety of songs and lullabies helps to successfully introduce infants to new vocabulary. By introducing new words in conjunction with actions or visuals (tickling a baby’s tummy or showing a baby pictures of farm animals), babies are better able to learn these words by their association to the actions/objects of action or images.

 

Children’s songs and lullabies can help grow a child’s cultural awareness as well. In multilingual households, singing songs in each language helps the baby learn to make word associations across languages—and is a stepping stone in bilingual speech development. Singing lullabies that celebrate one’s culture or heritage is also a great way to introduce a child to that part of their identity.

 

There are many ways to begin singing to your child or new practices to try if you already do! If you are interested in exploring your creative side, try writing your own song. It does not need to be complex; simple lyrics and rhythm are enough for your baby to recognize. Betty Bardige writes that songs and games “are especially fun (and helpful for building language) when they relate to what the baby is doing or seeing.”

 

Or, you can start with a common children’s song like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and transform it into your own song (as the mother does in our new book Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!). Other good songs are “You Are My Sunshine,” “The ABCs,” and “The Wheels On The Bus.” 

 

Once you feel comfortable singing to yourself and your baby, there are many musical exercises to try with children of all ages!

How To Start (And Continue) Talking To Kids About Race

Talking to children about race, racism, and police brutality can be intimidating and challenging, but we believe it is imperative in the fight for an anti-racist community. Here are 10 multimedia resources (articles, podcasts, interviews, etc.) to assist parents, teachers, educators, and caregivers in starting and continuing conversations with children.

 

Articles

UNICEF: Talking to your kids about racism: How to start the important conversation and keep it going, June 9, 2020

Comprehensive and age-specific advice for talking to children about race. Research is based in some scientific background.

 

PBS: How to Talk Honestly With Children About Racism, June 9, 2020

General advice for talking to younger children. Includes links to outside resources.

 

VOX: How to talk to kids about racism, explained by a psychologist, June 9, 2020

More specific information about discussing protests and police brutality. Information is provided by a licensed psychologist.

 

ADL: Race Talk: Engaging Young People in Conversations about Race and Racism

Information and advice for teachers and educators on talking about race during late childhood/early adolescence.

 

CHLA: Talking With Children About Race and Racism—an Age-by-Age Guide, June 10, 2020

Age-specific, science-based advice from doctors on talking about race with children.

 

Podcasts

EmbraceRace: Supporting Kids Of Color In the Wake Of Racialized Violence, 2016

Interviews with parents, teachers, and expert guests, including several people of color. Discusses when and how to support children of color in the aftermath of racialized violence.

 

NPR: How White Parents Can Talk To Their Kids About Race, June 4, 2016

Discusses some of the negative consequences of not talking to white children about race and racism.

 

Resource Lists

EmbraceRace: 20 Picture Books for 2020: Readings to Embrace Race, Provide Solace & Do Good, 2020

A list of picture books to assist in talking to kids about race and racism. Includes Spanish options.

 

ECEA: Resources for Educators Focusing on Anti-Racist Learning and Teaching, 2015

Resources to assist teachers seeking to cultivate an anti-racist classroom environment. Provides links to many outside sources.

 

Discussion

NYT: Talking to Children About Race, Policing and Violence, December 7, 2016

A roundtable discussion between New York Times employees who are parents (primarily people of color) about how they talk to their children about race/racism.

 

Tips and Tricks for Trilingual Households

Photo from Clean Up, Up, Up! / ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar! by Ellen Mayer.

It can sometimes be intimidating to think about teaching children multiple languages—especially if one or both parents are not fluent in all of the languages. Living in a trilingual household often comes with its own set of challenges. But, while language learning can, and most likely will, be difficult, it doesn’t have to be scary! Below is a list of tips and tricks for trilingual households to start at birth and continue throughout childhood.

 

Start Early and Use Native Languages First

Many trilingual households in the US are made up of two bilingual parents living in an English-dominated culture. It is thus recommended that each parent only address the child in their own native language. For example, if Parent 1 speaks Spanish and English and Parent 2 speaks German and English, Parent 1 should address their child in Spanish and Parent 2 should address their child in German.

 

Beginning this practice in infancy improves a child’s language acquisition in each language and teaches the child to distinguish between languages depending on audience. This is sometimes called the Minority Language at Home strategy, in which a child will speak and native languages at home while speaking and learning English in public (at schools, parks, shopping centers, etc.).

 

Quality Language Exposure Over Quantity Language Exposure

Children will be less likely to master a language if learning becomes tedious or feels like a task. To avoid this, it can be beneficial to incorporate language learning into a child’s interests. For example, if a child likes singing and dancing, they may enjoy learning a non-dominant language through song lyrics rather than books or worksheets. Similarly, if a child enjoys playing with toy cars, asking questions about what they’re doing in a non-dominant language will expose the child to new vocabulary during playtime. Often, if the child has a positive association with the process of language learning, they will be more receptive to learning and using the non-dominant language in these same scenarios.

 

Photo from Clean Up, Up, Up! / ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar! by Ellen Mayer.

Incorporate Culture into Language Learning

Maintaining multiple languages in a household can also mean maintaining multiple cultural identities. A fun way for children to learn native languages at home is by associating the language with an aspect of their cultural identity. This can mean incorporating food, music, books, holidays, and more from each respective culture into a child’s everyday life. Doing so allows the child to make associations between the languages they are speaking and the culture from which they come. It can also make speaking each language feel more relevant and applicable in their daily life.

 

Affirm a Child’s Multicultural Identity and Multilingual Abilities

Throughout the process of language learning, it is important to affirm (and reaffirm!) the progress a child is making in language learning. It will allow a child to see value in their multilingual abilities, as well as instill feelings of pride in their multicultural identity! The more positively the child feels, the more progress they will make. 

Honoring Juneteenth Through Listening, Learning, and Reflecting

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated each year by Black and African American people all across the United States. Unfortunately, Juneteenth (along with many other notable events in Black American history) has been left out of many classrooms and history books. As Star Bright Books has been listening and learning from the Black community, we felt it important to discuss the history and importance of this holiday, as well as the implications it carries in our society.

History

The ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, is often considered the end of slavery in the US. However, plantation owners throughout the South continued to enslave Black people for nearly two and a half more years. On June 19, 1865, two months after the Confederate Army surrendered, signaling the end of the US Civil War, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the war and declare the liberation of all enslaved people there.

After this announcement, many formerly enslaved people journeyed north, unsure of what their futures would look like. Despite numerous hardships, Black and African American families gathered on June 19 the following year to celebrate a day that then came to be considered the true ending of chattel slavery. The date, June 19, was shortened and combined to become one word—Juneteenth—and is celebrated each year.

A group of people posing for a photo

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Juneteenth celebration at Emancipation Park in 1880

Celebrations

On June 19, 1866, formerly enslaved people in Texas gathered for prayer and the singing of spirituals to celebrate the anniversary of their freedom. This celebration effectively began the tradition of Juneteenth celebrations for Black communities.

Soon thereafter, Black and African American people in other states began celebrating Juneteenth as well. It became a means to bring families together for reassurance and prayer.  Some formerly enslaved men, women, and their children would even make a pilgrimage to Galveston to acknowledge their pasts and pray for their futures.

More recently, Juneteenth celebrations have come to include barbeques, musical performances, and beauty contests beginning in the first week of June and continuing through June 19. It has become a way to celebrate the importance of Black culture in America and has become representative of the ongoing fight for racial equality.

Why don’t we know about Juneteenth?

During the nineteenth century, Juneteenth celebrations existed almost exclusively for African American communities. Many white communities even banned the use of public property for these celebrations. In the early 1900s, when classroom and textbook education overtook the more traditional form of home education, both Black and white segregated schools put very little emphasis on Black and African American history—as they continue to do today.

Juneteenth and other notable African American historical events have been treated as less of a priority. This, coupled with a lack of economic resources in the early twentieth century and through Great Depression, allowed very few Black people to celebrate Juneteenth unless it fell on a weekend. However, in the 1950s and ’60s the holiday resurged with the growing strength of the civil rights movement. Young protestors returned home from rallies with plans for new Juneteenth celebrations.

Blackout Bike Ride in New Orleans, June 19 2020 (Photo courtesy of Adam Dawson at Stay Red Studios).

Juneteenth Today

This year, Juneteenth has gained national attention in light of the recent police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black people. The recent protests surrounding their deaths have reenergized the fight for racial justice and equality. In light of this attention, leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement called upon its supporters to celebrate and utilize Juneteenth as a time to reflect, learn, and connect across Black communities.  

Why should we honor Juneteenth?

Conversations are ongoing to declare Juneteenth a national holiday, with especially strong pushes in recent months. Some states and cities have already passed bills to officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or local celebration.

Beyond this holiday, however, it is important to stand in solidarity with the Black community and actively support the continued fight for racial equality. We must continue to educate ourselves about the harsh history of racial and ethnic inequality in the United States—it is only through learning and understanding that we may find the compassion and empathy to support others.

Make Handwashing a Fun and Familiar Experience

Good hygiene, especially clean hands, is important for our health and safety. Handwashing helps prevent the spread of icky germs and bacteria like the coronavirus.

 

The Centers for Disease Control recommends washing your hands for approximately 20 seconds. But it is difficult to get children to concentrate for that long. So how can you make handwashing fun for youngsters?

 

Pediatricians suggest washing your own hands with your little one to set an example. Another tip is to tether handwashing to other fun activities, like arts and crafts.

 

Music can also make handwashing fun! Here is a cute “wash up-up-up” song to sing with your child. If you sing along with the audio track (one beat/second), the scrubbing section in the middle lasts for the recommended 20 seconds.

 

Be well and stay safe!

 

Illustration © 2018 by Ying-Hwa Hu (from Clean Up, Up, Up!)


Wash Up, Up, Up!

 

Wash up, up, up!

Wash up, up, up!

This is how you wash your hands:

 

You Wet

Lather

Scrub

Rinse, and

Dry

 

You wet your hands, you can use cold water

You lather your hands with a squirt of soap

Then you scrub your hands lots of different ways

 

You scrub the palms, one, two, three

 

You scrub the backs, one, two, three

 

You scrub the sides, one, two, three

 

You scrub the fingers, one, two, three

 

You scrub the tips, one, two, three

 

Then you rinse the soap off and dry your hands

And you’ve washed up, up, up!

One more time:

 

Wash up, up, up!

Wash up, up, up!

This is how you wash your hands:

 

You Wet

Lather

Scrub

Rinse, and

Dry

 

Lyrics and music © 2020 by Malcolm Pittman

Benjamin Futterman: vocals, guitar, audio editing

Ela Ben-Ur: vocals, fiddle

Malcolm Pittman: vocals, banjo

Courtesy of Star Bright Books

(Hand-washing procedure taken from the Centers for Disease Control)