Cherney Gordon, author and devoted lover of various children’s booksdiscusses the trends she saw in childhood literacy, why fostering a love of reading is crucial, and why representation in reading matters.
You are a big fan of diversity in the media. Why is it so important for readers, especially young ones, to read and see people like them in their books?
It is important for young readers to see themselves in books because children grow up in an interconnected, diverse society. The impact of children who do not see reflection in the literature and media during their formation can cause serious harm, causing them low self-esteem.
Children (and adults) need to be constantly reminded that they can achieve anything, no matter how old they are, how they look or where they live. Lack of representation can hinder a child’s ambitions and aspirations while he is still young and his mind is impressive. I want my kids to know that perfection can also look like them! Even such a small thing as seeing a similar hairstyle in the pages of a book can confirm how people see themselves, and encourage them to appreciate their uniqueness.
In addition to representation, the diversity of literature is important because it helps people become more merciful to others and allows them to push the lever to true equality. In essence, diversity can allow us to look beyond superficial external differences and look deeper for common interests, such as likes and dislikes, values, beliefs, and attitudes. The ability to empathize and empathize with different characters means that we as humans are more open to understanding others in general. I think this is a very important aspect for promotion, especially at the time and place we live in today. We all have something to tell.
You say that in your world, “books are an absolute necessity.” Why is this so and what impact do you see books have on people?
Yes, books are absolutely necessary in my world – they have always been since childhood.
I first fell in love with books when I was seven years old. I was a curious child and wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. Books have always been my “first class ticket” to any place I want to visit around the world. They help me escape into other dimensions, embark on endless adventures and get amazing experiences without leaving home comfort.
Books not only entertain, but they also help enrich my mind, give me new ideas, expand my vocabulary, provide solutions to problems, and challenge my outlook on life.
While the Internet and television are useful in their own way, nothing compares to a good book. Whether you want to learn a new language or delve into the intrigues of space, there is a book for every situation.
I have seen how books have a positive impact on my life and the lives of my children. They helped me tremendously in the early years of my parenting journey. I learned strategies that I could use with my children, which helped me gain more confidence as a mother. Daily reading aloud with my children since they were babies helped them become confident readers at an early age. The books have also been helpful in improving my children’s imagination, speaking skills and vocabulary. It brings me joy when I hear my kids say they like reading as a hobby and not as a business.
My goal as a parent is to try to make reading never feel like what children need to do to make their adults happy. One of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from Mem Fox, who said, “When I tell parents to‘ read baby, ’I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. ”
You wrote and edited “Racing Cars” and “A Friend Like You”. Tell me a little about why you decided to write / edit these books, and what you hope to achieve with these books?
I decided to join “Racing Cars” because not only did I like the plot, but I also realized the importance of this story as another valuable resource for parents, educators, and educators that can be used with children when discussing races.
My role in this project was to serve as an editor. I was led to look at a previously self-published version of the book through a critical prism. I tried to dig deeper, make suggestions and clarify some languages and the general course of history. My edits have led to a revised story, which is basically the same in the overall plot, but differs in that it now has new characters, a different finale and an updated discussion section.
I hope families take away that everyone deserves fair and equal treatment. We all deserve to feel noticed, heard and loved, no matter how we look. In a world where there is so much noise and different opinions, I hope the future will be brighter for my children and all the children of the next generation. Learning to coexist in one space, in the same world as others who look different than you, shouldn’t be hard.
I decided to co-author the book “A Friend Like You” because real human connections and significant friendships have always been important to me.
From March 2020, many of us are in practical isolation from loved ones. In uncertain moments like these, it may seem strange and inconvenient to make new friends and reconnect with old ones.
I hope people use this book as a learning tool for socio-emotional learning. The book is designed not only for young audiences – it is sure to please adult readers. “A Friend Like You” reflects the social power of friendship, and its publication demonstrates the power of two friends with a common goal: to reunite people through literature.
One of the interesting things about friendship is that it evolves as we grow and age. For young children, friendship can be adorable! Toddlers and young children can imagine that their friendships are reminiscent of fantastic adventures every time they get together with their friends. In adolescence and adolescence, many children identify their friends based on how much their friends show that they care about them. By the time you become an adult, many people develop a keen sense of self and are just looking for friends who will support them through all of life’s hardships.
What makes a good friend in elementary school is different from what makes a good friend in high school, and these changes continue into the 20s and 30s and throughout our lives. I hope that people of all ages will read this book, present it to their friends and relatives and will appreciate it for many years to come.
You founded this amazing, successful nonprofit called 50 States 50 Books, which aims to close the literacy gap in the United States by providing children with unfortunate privileges with a variety of books. What literacy problem in this country was the strangest or most unpleasant you have ever learned?
The strangest fact that I have learned about literacy in the United States is the effects of illiteracy and the greater impact it can have on society. Illiteracy can negatively affect our health, quality of life, crime rate, education, employment and more.
If you are a literate person, one of the best things you can do is encourage a love of reading in the next generation. It’s part of my “why” to do the work I do every day.
Another amazing fact that I think families should know is that children who read at least 20 minutes a day are exposed to almost 2 million words a year. Yes, that’s 2 million words a year! Let it come in.
The most unpleasant thing I have learned is that the United States ranks 125th out of 194 countries in literacy. This worries me (but not surprisingly) given that the United States is a first world country. And here’s another nasty problem: 2 out of 3 children who can’t read until the end of the fourth grade will go to jail or for help.
How has COVID-19 affected reading from what you have seen in your personal life and in your nonprofit?
COVID-19 had a positive effect on my personal reading. The pandemic has forced me to read more books in a year than in previous years. Before COVID-19 I read an average of 20 to 25 books a year. In 2020, I doubled the number of books I read, and in 2021 I read 52 books in a year.
The biggest consequences of COVID-19 on our non-profit organization are delivery delays, lost books in the mail and a reduction in the number of books donated by the public. Times are tough for many people, and donating cash gifts or books may not be at the top of most people’s list, which is understandable.
What do you think is the best way to raise literacy in the United States?
I wish I had all the answers to this question, but I don’t. Improving literacy in the United States is such a difficult task that, unfortunately, is not easy to solve.
I think for starters, we need to find ways to help kids love words and focus on more books and fewer tools. I have a love-hate relationship to technology since I was a former programmer for over 15 years. I like that technology can help unite us, teach and entertain. However, it is known that technology has a negative impact on us – especially on young children.
Next, I think many of the challenges we face in the United States (and around the world) are related to access. The idea of having access impressed me very much as soon as I became a parent.
As a child, I wanted to do a few things, like become a scout, participate in after-school activities, go to the local library, and go to summer camp. However, because my family and schools did not have access to these things or reliable transportation to get me there, I was unable to participate in any extracurricular activities or travel around the city with my parents like some of my peers.
As a child I wished if I had ever been blessed to have a family, I would have given my children to a school system that allowed them to do some of the things I wanted to do as a child.
It has been a long way to say that we need to provide all children (and illiterate adults) with access to books, libraries, reading materials, reading programs and resources at school, at home and in prisons.