LSU's Dr. Bickmore & Author Jacqueline Woodson Round Out Day 2
In a moving and thought-provoking opening to Day 2, Conference creator and director Dr. Steve Bickmore discussed his own personal experiences with diversity, privilege, and why he believes an educator’s greatest task is to instill and foster optimism and confidence in their students.
“As educators, you are being called to work in an environment where you need to spread hope,” he told the audience.
Dr. Bickmore said that YA Literature has a major role to play in this task.
“We aren’t thinking about the value of YAL. If we want kids to be lifelong readers, we need to give them age-appropriate content that will engage then and open doors to get them reading other things. We need to allow them to look through different windows and reconcile their experiences with a diversity of characters.”
However engaging and encouraging students is no small task for educators who encounter kids from all races, religions and walks of life.
“What about the kids who are NOT me,” he challenged the audience. “That’s the issue for all of us. How do we reach the kids who aren’t like us. You aren’t going to teach yourself. If we don’t turn to things like YAL and constantly re-evaluate our opportunities and missed opportunities to make a difference, we fail as educators. I admit that I wasn’t always right with what I put in my students’ hands.”
Dr. Bickmore closed by encouraging the audience to seek to first understand when trying to foster diversity in the classroom.
“Have the brave conversations with people who don’t look like you, who don’t have the same world view, so we can understand each other better.”
Between reading from several of her own works, Woodson shared personal experiences from her childhood and how they have shaped her writing style and the characters she creates.
"I grew up in a world where there were many windows, but they all looked into a white, middle class world. And there were very few mirrors for me. I started to write because I wanted to create a world where I could see myself, and for kids like me to see themselves," she said. "There is room for all kinds of literature. And kids need all kinds of literature. I believe all people have a right to see themselves in the books they read."
Day 2 closed out with a welcome reception at the LSU campus bookstore where authors and attendees mingled and both Woodson and fellow author Coe Booth read from some of their works.
For more info on Woodson, click here.
Follow her on Twitter at @JackieWoodson.