When I was sitting in that big, swivel chair getting a haircut yesterday, the woman next to me was talking about the movie Hidden Figures. How, she wondered aloud to anyone willing to listen, had she, a well-educated woman who majored in history, never heard of these women before?
The simple answer? History tends to focus on men, not women.
Know what? Same is true for children’s books. Before you get all upset, know that I’m talking in general terms. Yes, I know there are a host of biographies available to me about Clara Barton. And yes, I know that we’re starting to see a shift in what is being written, published, and purchased for children.
A good thing, too. The audiences out there are wildly diverse, and we want them all to be readers, don’t we?
We want them to relate to characters (historical or fictional) and feel known, part of this complex world, and represented. Further, we want our young readers to learn from and empathize with characters the likes of whom they may not have encountered in their own lives.
So, along these lines, today’s Delicious Thursday pick is about a rather unusual (especially for the time) baseball player, Edith Haughton. Detailed in The Kid from Diamond Street by Audrey Vernick, Edith was born in 1912 when Little League – and girls playing baseball – didn’t exist. But by 10 years old, she was playing for the Philadelphia Bobbies, a professional woman’s team that took her around the world.
Can you imagine allowing your child sail to Japan to play baseball against men’s teams in an age before cell phones? But off Edith went in this celebratory story of a little girl who always made the claim that she was born with a baseball in her hand.
Are the odds stacked up against you? Have you ever been the youngest? The “wrong” gender to do something? Ever had a passion that wouldn’t abate? It is easy to relate to and be in awe of Edith’s story. Steven Salerno’s jaunty illustrations fit the story to a T.
Kids really respond to non-fiction that reads like fiction. This is a true story, you can tell them. This really happened. I love that moment! WHAT? REALLY? They love a good incredible against-the-odds story! Give it a try!
~ Do a mini-research project on the history of baseball! Or create a timeline – when did Little Leagues form? When did women play baseball professionally? When were minorities allowed to play?
~ Find out more about Japan! Locate it on a map. Research that country’s love of baseball!
~ Engage in conversations with your kiddos. Ask them (or have them write about) what it feels like to be an underdog.
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