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Inclusion in the book arts



I have been following with interest the conversation on Inclusion in the Book
Arts. I do virtually all of my teaching in the schools so the population of
my classes is predetermined. City schools are mixed; in this area, black,
white, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and lower to middle class. Suburban schools
are mostly white and middle to upper middle class. I work with grades K-6. My
experience runs contrary to the comments of Richard. My most enthusiastic
students are in the city schools. I find them full of curiosity and hungry
for knowledge. They are interested in the history of the books as well as
making them. Much of their frame of reference comes not from their culture,
but from television sitcoms and cartoons. They want real experiences that
broaden their world. The city kids also tend to be better behaved than their
suburban counterparts, who often come across to me as more jaded. They have
computers and after-school lessons of one type or another and are inclined to
think they know it all, or at least enough, already. These are, of course,
generalizations. There are outstanding schools, wonderful teachers, and
 terrific kids in every kind of community, as well as ones that are less
inspired.

I also have a few comments about Ed?s situation in the libraries. I rarely
face this issue since I work in with younger kids in schools, but I did do a
community project, THE LOWELL MULTICULTURAL BOOK PROJECT, five years ago. I
received a grant to work with adults from different ethnic groups in Lowell,
MA. Each person made a handmade book about his or her own or family history
over a 2 month period. The books were then exhibited at the local library and
documentation went into archive collections. All materials were provided,
there was no charge to participants, and the book was theirs at the end. I
thought I?d be turning people away. Not so. It was a long project, but
absolutely the hardest part was finding the participants. Being involved
required a large commitment of time and sufficient bravery to try something
new and have it displayed before the community. It was complicated by the
fact that I was seeking one representative from each community. I contacted
church and cultural leaders, teachers, social workers, and business people. I
began by writing letters, progressed to phone calls, and moved on to personal
sales visits with samples. An article describing the project in the local
newspaper brought one person to the group. The exhibit was a great success
and the whole project received lots of local media coverage. Despite the
attention, I think I would have been hard-pressed to assemble another group
to do a similar project.
 I think the best approach is one of partnership with community leaders-
church groups, boys and girls clubs, etc. and perhaps with a librarian who
shares your commitment. One approach would be to ask what their goals are for
their kids, what kinds of skills, experiences, knowledge they feel are
important, and then work together to plan projects. If you work with a
community group that is part of a larger statewide-nationwide group, it might
be easier to spread your idea to other communities. We?re in the sales
business as well as the bookmaking business, and my experience on selling the
idea one by one to individuals tells me that is not the most efficient way.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord


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