the Birthday Party Pledge blog

Ideas to Help Build a New Generation of Readers

Spotlight on “Love Twelve Miles Long” by Glenda Armand, Illustrated by Colin Bootman

One of our favorite publishers is the family-owned Lee & Low Books, committed to quality and diversity. As of 2010, the company had published more than 650 titles, and just recently, they acquired the assets of Children’s Book Press, the first specialty publisher of multicultural children’s books in the United States. With this addition Lee & Low Books becomes one of the largest independent multicultural children’s publishers in the country.

Recently, Lee & Low published an amazing story based on the childhood of Frederick Douglass called Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand and illustrated by Colin Bootman.

When Frederick was young, he and his mother were separated because of slavery. As Douglass wrote in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass:

It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor. For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result.

But Frederick’s mother was different. Whenever she could, after working hard in the fields all day, she trudged the twelve miles to see Frederick, and then had to walk back again to be ready to work at sun-up. It was her love of her son and dreams of freedom that kept her going.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful, expertly conveying the love and warmth between mother and son.

This powerful testament to a mother’s love and a slave’s dedication to the dream of freedom is not to be missed!

Note: Lee & Low identifies the interest level for this book as “Grades 1 – 6,” but don’t let that deter you adults from reading it. My husband and I both loved it and found it truly inspirational!


To see exactly what Frederick’s mother had to endure, “four brave desk jockeys from LEE & LOW BOOKS set out to see what it is like to walk twelve miles through the streets of New York City.” Their journey is recorded for us on this very amusing video, here. Needless to say, they did not walk another twelve after a brief rest in order fully to replicate what Frederick’s mother did.

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Links of Interest for February, 2012

Have you checked the book lists on the Birthday Party Pledge site lately?  Several of the lists have been updated!


As February approaches, quite a few sites are planning online multicultural events.  The Brown Bookshelf hosts a month-long celebration of childrens’ authors of color.  See the list of upcoming special profiles here.


EdiDoret,  and Vasilly  are hosting a book event for the National African American Read-In sponsored by the Black Caucus of the NCTE and the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English). They’ll be reading a book for the month of February and discussing it online. To decide the book, the three of them selected six books for participants from which the book they read will be selected.

The books are:

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

Good Fortune by Noni Carter

Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks

Pull by B.A. Binns

Fences by August Wilson

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

The poll is on Vasilly’s blog. The title selected will be announced on Monday 30 January. The Read-In will begin on 22 February and discussions will be held throughout the week on each of our three blogs.

They hope you’re able to choose just one!


Rhapsody in Books will be featuring a selection of books each Saturday that are relevant for Black History Month.  The themes are:

Saturday February 4:  Selection of Books on Slavery for Children

Saturday February 11: Selection of Books on Civil Rights for Children

Saturday February 18: Selection of Books on Famous African American Women

Saturday February 25: Selection of Books on Famous African American Men

(You can actually start there today with a Selection of Books on Black Families, here.)


The Association of MultiEthnic Americans has a long list of recommended readings, here.  Many of them pertain to mixed-race families.


You can find a number of annotated lists on Canadian Aboriginal Children’s Literature here.


Have any more links to add?  Just let us know!

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Make reading FUN!

Welcome! Have you taken the Birthday Party Pledge? If so, thank you for making a commitment to give multicultural books to the children in your life. If not, you can take the pledge now:

I promise to give multicultural books as gifts to the children in my life for ONE year.

I promise to encourage them to read about and appreciate diversity in all its forms.

I commit myself to building a new generation of readers!

Do you know a child who’s reluctant to read? The BPP team has come up with some suggestions that are sure to get young readers excited about books.

Ari: Pick a book from our Global Fiction list and prepare a meal from the country that’s featured in the book. You can also dine out at a restaurant that serves food from that country. Over dinner, discuss the book and share insights you gained into a different country and culture.

Doret: Read together. Pick a book from the Chapter Book list and share it with a beginner reader. Read a few pages and then allow the child to do the same. You’ll get to spend quality time together while enjoying a great story and strengthening the child’s reading ability.

Edi: Choose a book from the Historical Fiction list. Read the book with your child and then visit your local museum or historical society to learn more about that particular era. You can also watch a period drama set during that time, or prepare a meal with food appropriate to the era.

Jill: Start a mother/child book club. Perhaps you can recruit from a play group or school friends. Depending on the age of the children, use any of our links as a resource list for your book club selections.

Zetta: Know a child who’s too far away to hold on your lap? Pick a book from our Picture Book list and record yourself reading the book aloud (audio only or video). Then wrap the book and send it along with your recording. The child will be able to follow along as s/he listens to your voice. A great idea for families that are separated due to incarceration, military service, or divorce.

Have a suggestion of your own? Leave a comment so that others can benefit from your idea.

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