“Bright April” Is Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden’s Favorite Children’s Book

CREDIT: PBS
CREDIT: PBS

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden — the first black woman to hold this position — explained why it’s so important for children of color to see themselves reflected in children’s books in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown this week.

Hayden told Brown about a children’s book that holds particular importance to her: Bright April, written and illustrated by Marguerite De Angeli and published in 1946. The book portrays a black girl’s life in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and her experiences with racial prejudice.

Hayden connected with the book as a child because she was able to relate to the main character.

She was a little African American girl who had the little socks and two pigtails and she was a Brownie. And at that time I was a Brownie, I had two pigtails, and I had a family that was reflected in this book. There weren’t many books that showed African Americans in a sympathetic way.

Hayden also showed Brown a photo of her family and explained how it reminded her of the family dinner illustration in Bright April.

“It really emphasized later when I became a children’s librarian, how children really need to see themselves reflected in books,” she said. “Books can be mirrors and they can be windows.”

Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to head the Library of Congress. In her interview with Brown, she pointed out that being able to break these barriers is especially significant considering that slaves used to be punished harshly — and sometimes even had their fingers amputated — for trying to learn to read.

“Being the first African American really resonates because, for so many years during slavery, slaves were forbidden to learn how to read,” she said. “So to have an African-American head up the largest institution that signifies knowledge and information resonates with me quite a bit.”

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SOURCE: Think Progress
Casey Quinlan