Author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien joined IRW staff to provide two days of professional development workshops for our partner school Site Coordinators before the start of school. She facilitated discussions around her “Books as Bridges” presentation which focuses on a celebration of differences, building positive cross group interactions, the complex issues of identity and racism, and how books can be used to facilitate a change in attitudes. Anne has been working with and writing about diverse books for children for over 40 years. Teachers were able to share their personal experiences in their own communities and draw on the experience of others around the table. We learned how to talk about this difficult topic from Anne and were given resources for finding diverse books with different viewpoints. It was a great two days of sharing.
Stephanie Higgins, grades 1-4 teacher at Whiting Village School, shared these words with us after the workshop:
“Anne’s workshop was one of the most useful and important workshops I have had as a teacher during my 15-year career. The issues of celebrating diversity, reducing prejudice and creating empathy are so critical at this point in the United States and our global community. I have been shocked into the realization through recent conversations with my daughter and participation in Anne’s presentation that there are many things I have not been aware of because of my “majority identity” as a white person in America. Anne explained how we can change our ways of viewing ourselves and the people around us. She provided resources and tools I can take back to my classroom and use right away. She allowed time for discussion as we grappled with these important issues. I am so grateful to have had the chance to see my attitudes, and the world differently through participating in Anne’s enlightening presentation and learning about her ongoing work in this field.”