Poetry Friday: brown girl dreaming

brown girl

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

In this deeply moving collection of autobiographical poems, Jacqueline Woodson reflects on her childhood as a Southern-born, New York-raised African American girl in 1960s and 1970s America.

While every passage is memorable and moving in its own way, as a librarian and educator, I found stevie and me particularly poignant.

stevie and me

Every Monday, my mother takes us

to the library around the corner. We are allowed

to take out seven books each. On those days,

no one complains

that all I want are picture book.

Those days, no one tells me to read faster

to read harder books

to read like Dell.

No one is there to say, Not that book,

when I stop in front of the small paperback

with a brown boy on the cover.

Stevie.

I read:

One day my momma told me,

“You know you’re gonna have

a little friend come stay with you.”

And I said, “Who is it?”

If someone had been fussing with me

to read like my sister, I might have missed

the picture book filled with brown people, more

brown people than I’d ever seen

in a book before.

The little boy’s name was Steven but

his mother kept calling him Stevie.

My name is Robert but my momma don’t

call me Robertie.

If someone had taken

that book out of my hand

said, You’re too old for this

maybe

I’d never have believed

that someone who looked like me

could be in the pages of the book

that someone who looked like me

had a story.

We need libraries. We need diverse books. We need to look beyond reading levels and lexiles and strive to connect young readers with books that speak to them, motivate them, and inspire them.

We need to do more, because our kids deserve nothing less.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print. Pages 227-228.

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11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: brown girl dreaming

  1. I just want to say Amen…..because I read your post as a prayer. Yes! So glad to share this profession with you. And, Brown Girl Dreaming is absolutely stunning in so many ways. Getting to meet Jackie Woodson — or just hearing her speak– is on my bucket list!
    Have a great week.

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  2. Hear, hear! More diverse books and no adult-imposed restrictions about what is age appropriate for any reader. BGD is one of my all-time faves, so nice to read stevie and me again.

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  3. Yes to diverse books, but also yes to picture books! A parent shared with me at conference night that my #classroombookaday / picture book a day with my 5th graders has given her advanced reader “permission” to read and enjoy picture books again!

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