1. Tell us about yourself and what you are passionate about.
Hello! We are Corrie (she/they) and Lee (they/them), a married pair of book lovers that strive to educate themselves and others while amplifying others’ voices using our privilege and platform. Corrie is passionate about creating a diverse and inclusive bookshelf and Lee is passionate about making our website accessible and engaging to everyone who visits it!
2. I love the core mission and values of The Tiny Activist. The one that stuck out to me the most was the focus on affirmation and empowerment, and “not just tolerance, acceptance or awareness.” This is explained beautifully on your website. Can you explain it one more time here, and let us know why it is so important?
We believe that it’s not enough to accept or tolerate people with different lived experiences from yourself. We should be celebrating and uplifting everyone! Tolerance isn’t going to create a truly inclusive and equitable world, which is what we should be striving for, especially now with the long-overdue social uprising that’s currently happening.
3. The Tiny Activist uses a “window and mirror” approach. Can you describe what that means and share how parents can achieve this in the home environment?
So the Windows and Mirror approach was first developed by Emily Style in 1988 for the National SEED Project. The entire idea is that the literature used (and curriculum) should both reflect the person reading and their identity, and be a window into others’ experiences and identity. We want everyone to feel like their life is normalized by the books they see, and to normalize others. This applies to everything you might see in a book: family structure, treatment of others, social-emotional skills, and authentic representation of others.
Here is my favorite article about it: https://nationalseedproject.org/Key-SEED-Texts/curriculum-as-window-and-mirror
4. On your website and social media channels, you share very thorough and well-written reviews of diverse kid’s literature. What made you choose books as your medium?
Originally this project started because Corrie was looking for a website that used an intersectional approach to reviewing books to use when she was a classroom teacher. When she couldn’t find one that covered a variety of topics instead of just one, as well as a desire to share her favorite books that she had collected, the idea to start a website was suggested by a family friend that is a professor of child psychology. We wanted to choose books because they’re engaging to young children, and easy to return to over and over again to have rich conversations about. It’s also a medium that can be checked out for free from the library, which makes it more accessible.
5. How do you choose the books you review and what advice can you give to parents who are looking to diversify their child’s bookshelf?
Corrie does all of the book reviews, and she looks for a book with an age-appropriate message that has engaging illustrations, as well as a unique storyline. The publishing industry as a whole is incredibly unbalanced as to who it publishes. The majority of books have protagonists that are either white or animals. Those books are fine, but only if they’re balanced out with other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) main characters to ensure inclusive representation. Both of us are white and able-bodied, we have a ton of privilege! It’s our responsibility to use that privilege and amplify the amazing creators that are creating Own Voices books for the world. If the bookshelf is unbalanced, it’s easier for implicit biases to form about who the inventors, problem-solvers, and heroes are-in the real world and in the world of literature.
6. I am loving your #sweetsandsocialjustice hashtag, especially since I am an avid baker myself. How do these two topics blend together for you?
I’m so glad you enjoy it! It all started because Corrie (who used to be a professional pastry chef) was baking a lot while being at home due to the pandemic. It was a way to stretch some creative muscles and try to think of recipes that could represent aspects of the book she was reading. Since we love books that teach kids tenets of social justice education and develop critical thinking skills, it seemed like a nice alliterative way to combine both of those interests!
7. Corrie, you recently completed graduate school where you focused on gender and cultural studies, can you talk briefly about gender stereotyping. Why is it harmful and what can parents do to raise their children appropriately?
So gender stereotyping is when people make assumptions about what a child would/should like based on their sex assigned at birth. This not only erases non-binary and genderfluid identities, but it also boxes kids into prescribed notions of what they “should” like. It also teaches kids to have these expectations of others. Instead of letting kids choose their own hobbies and personal expression freely, they’re told what colors to wear and what toys they need to enjoy. The media also plays a HUGE part in this, which is why we need to be having conversations with kids about how harmful these expectations are. Nobody wants to feel like they don’t fit in because they don’t like what they’re “supposed to”, and allowing kids to wear what they want, have the length of hair they want, and play with what they want also teaches them that when others do those things it’s not “weird” it’s just who they are.
Delusions of Gender, Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue and Pink Brain Blue Brain are some books that I recommend to folks looking for more in-depth information about this!
8. Lee, as a fellow history aficionado, and someone that has had to relearn history as an adult I know how frustrating it can be to know that almost everything you learned is inaccurate, and how daunting it is to feel you have to relearn every aspect again. Where do you recommend someone start when making this journey? And, what things need to be corrected for children to grow up learning a more diverse and inclusive history?
I would say to first start off with an interactive or audio visual modality of relearning like documentaries or podcasts. If you’ve studied history in any higher ed capacity, there’s so much reading! That can feel too daunting to go back and think about reading all of it again, so starting with something that’s entertaining can get you back into the swing of it. The same way you started studying history when you were young, most of us start with what we’re most interested in learning about, and then expand to different subjects from there. Make sure that you’re learning about history from a holistic perspective, and not just the recounting of historical events from the “winner’s” perspective! Counternarratives are especially important, and understanding where historical narratives have been simplified. The biggest example I can think of to illustrate that here is how in school most of us learn a whitewashed version of the Modern Black Freedom Struggle/Civil Rights Movement that lift up Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King JR as the two people that completely drove the entire movement forward; in actuality, it took hundreds of community organizers and organizations (like SNCC) over several decades to finally achieve the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
9. You recently started a second social media account called the Pint Sized Professor to share STEM related children’s books. Why did you decide to separate these books from your main page? And, why is the promotion of STEM for children important to you?
We decided to separate them to make it easier for folks looking for just STEM & nature education books, even though we share some STEM books on The Tiny Activist still. We try to share mostly human protagonists on TTA, and a lot of our favorite STEM books (like Professor Astro Cat) aren’t human. A love of STEM is really important to develop early because by around the age of 12, girls don’t feel like they “should” like it (there go those pesky stereotypes again) and interest drops off because of a lack of representation as well. But by promoting picture books about different women in science it shows everyone that fantastic STEM discoveries have been made by lots of brilliant people throughout history.
10. What are your future plans and goals for The Tiny Activist?
We have a couple of projects in the works (depending on when this goes live I can elaborate) and being at home more the last few months has allowed us to completely revamp the website and really brainstorm about what else we want. A few different ideas are percolating like lesson plans that center around a specific book, or curated book lists. Really, we just want to be able to help educate as many people as possible and get the word out about really great books!
11. Thank you so much for your time! To close, can you share your most valuable piece of advice for parents?
Don’t get caught up in who your child might be, and allow them to be who they are in the moment. Take a critical look at your bookshelf and ensure that there are books showing that anyone can do anything. Not all books with BIPOC, disabled, or LGBTQ protagonists need to be ultra-serious non-fiction. These characters also need to be shown having fun too!