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Good and Beautiful and Kind

One of the things I most remember from my childhood is the joy of watching children’s television shows on the Public Broadcasting Service – or PBS. For me, in Brooklyn, it was channel 13. I loved watching Sesame Street, not only because Gordon, Susan, and Olivia looked like me and my family, but Luis and Maria offered me a window into the song of words in Spanish. The muppets were so accepting of one another, even though their personalities were very different.

In those episodes, I learned counting songs like the Ladybugs’ Picnic and The Alligator King, and it was fun to witness Grover’s shenanigans. I was thrilled when people finally saw Mr. Snuffleupagus, and realized that he wasn’t just Big Bird’s imaginary friend, and Oscar helped me to see that it was okay to be grouchy sometimes. I learned lessons that were very similar to what I learned in children’s books, including the ones I learned about on another favorite PBS show – Reading Rainbow.

Butterfly in the sky
I can go twice as high
Take a look
It’s in a book
A reading rainbow

I can go anywhere
Friends to know
And ways to grow
A reading rainbow

I can be anything
Take a look
It’s in a book
A reading rainbow

Children’s books invite us to explore all of the feelings that come with the wide spectrum of life’s experiences – joy, sadness, acceptance, fear, courage, loss, silliness, anger, gratitude, frustration, hope.

I first saw The Color Purple movie based on Alice Walker’s book when I was 11. I’ve seen the movie countless times since then (I know much of the script by heart), and one of scenes that haunt me still is when Mr. forcibly separates Celie and Nettie – sisters who were the only ones in the world with whom they experienced love. It breaks my heart every time to see someone be so cruel.

I’ve been experiencing that same brokenhearted feeling in this political climate where we are experiencing so much more polarization than unity. What’s happening now with book banning and library defunding feels and looks like stealing magic from the hands of children. 

In 1930, Langston Hughes wrote the poem Tired.

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two-
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.

I first learned of this poem after reading that it was the inspiration for the title of  Rich Villodas’ book Good and Beautiful and Kind. Yes, Langston. I am tired. So many of us are. 93 years later, and it can feel like we’re still waiting. Let’s stop waiting. Let’s celebrate our stories. All kinds of stories. Let’s build the world our children deserve. A world that is unapologetically fueled by connection, community, curiosity, wonder, discovery, joy, and love – one stunning picture book page at a time.

Continue the learning!

Learn with Afrika Afeni Mills on Thursday, May 4, 2023, in-person at Lesley University or virtually! Afrika will wrap up the 2023 Kids, Books & Anti-Racism Series with her workshop, Using Picture Books to Center Humanity and  Connect Across Differences.

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