Title: I Am Riding!
Author: M.J. Fievre
Illustrator: Jean P. Icart Pierre
Publisher: One Moore Book (2013) (The Haiti Series)
Language: English / French / Kreyol
All children all over the world deserve good books that reflect their own experiences and give them insights into the experience of others. They deserve to have these books in their own languages - not just English - to encourage their balanced language development at home and at school.
When a child who speaks a minority language attends a school where the language of instruction is one of the dominant culture, the home language of the student can be seen as a problem or impediment to learning (a problem "solved" by an ESL class). However, when we instead treat home cultures and languages as multiple resources in the diverse classroom, all students can benefit.
Children need to see themselves in their stories, and as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously said in her TED Talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story, when children and their cultures are underrepresented in literature, a negative cycle is set in motion. While children don't learn the value of themselves as the protagonists of books, they also learn that some stories are more intrinsically "valuable" than others.
The story is very simple - a girl who is learning to ride a bike and the challenges she faces along the way. A story free of stereotypes, the reader knows nothing about the socio-economic status of the girl except to know that she has a bike. It is an everyday scene that could happen in any country, but is set in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Two older role models are teaching her how to ride a bike, and while she at first has trouble with the brakes (an experience novice bike riders all over the world will share).
The copy I have was printed in the USA in 2015, is in frugal paperback and does not include a price on the back cover. If this makes the book (and books like it) more affordable in countries where it is needed I am very happy that publishers like this exist to fill this crucial need in underserved communities. If teachers in the USA and other countries didn't add this book to their classroom libraries on account of it being a paperback, I would consider this a missed opportunity. Multicultural books like this one should find their place on any bookshelf, but in particular on the bookshelves of teachers who want to celebrate their multicultural classrooms in a way that is meaningful, more than just hanging flags on the wall.