Young Activists and the Public Library: Facilitating Democracy

ALA. Mar. 2020. 128p. pap. $45.99. ISBN 9780838947388.
In this slim volume, Walter, a former public librarian and academic, provides a brief overview of youth activism and offers examples, strategies, and programs to engage young library users. There is a strong emphasis on civic and media literacy and the role librarians can play in helping library users to develop both, but suggestions for participatory engagement are limited and include ideas such as storytelling and book talks, interactive bulletin boards, public forums, and teen advisory boards—none of which are particularly groundbreaking. Almost half of the book consists of an annotated bibliography of recommended picture book and middle grade titles related to justice and activism, arranged by topic. While many recommended titles are inclusive and by BIPOC creators, there are some curious missteps; for instance, Caps for Sale is mentioned despite recent work by Black scholars such as Edi Campbell highlighting the problems with anthropomorphic monkeys in children’s literature, and Walter also recommends Gerald McDermott’s books, which have been critiqued for their misrepresentation and appropriation of Native American culture. No YA titles are included, as Walter suggests that adult titles will fill that need. However, suggested adult offerings are limited, and this choice results in the unfortunate omission of worthy and timely YA selections.
VERDICT Despite some salient points, this work falls short of its stated purpose, and readers will be better served by investigating lists and resources from organizations such as We Need Diverse Books, the We Are Kid Lit Collective, or Teaching for Change’s Social Justice Books.

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