Male Monday: Jamie Campbell Naidoo

Posted on 8 October 2012 Monday


I’ve met Jamie Campbell Naidoo exactly once and that was at JCLC. I was familiar with his reputation, as he has written and researched multicultural children’s lit for a while. More  about him:

Jamie Campbell Naidoo

Prior to joining the faculty of the University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies in 2008, Dr. Naidoo worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in children’s literature, literacy/library services to Latinos, and materials and programs for libraries serving young children. He has worked in both school and public libraries in Alabama as an elementary school library media specialist and as the Coordinator of Juvenile Services in a public library.

Jamie is actively involved in numerous professional associations such as the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking (REFORMA), and the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY). He has served on several prestigious national and international book award committees including the Caldecott, Pura Belpré, and Américas awards and regularly reviews children’s and young adult materials for Library Media Connection and REFORMA.

I attended Naidoo’s session at JCLC entitled “Rainbow Family Collections” and as I was taking notes on his presentation, I soon realized I’d have to blog it and, afterwards, he graciously gave his approval for me to share my notes here.

Naidoo began his session by reinforcing the need for children to see themselves validated in books. He explained that ‘rainbow families’ can be those with GLBT parents and/or children. Either situation has been represented in children’s books. Regardless of their situation, children in rainbow families have an information need that should be respected. This respect is communicated through librarians’ attitudes, how welcoming the environment is that we create and how inclusive our programming is. Naidoo was quick to point out that some communities are more accepting than others and that there are ways to present information, to code it if you will, in ways that rainbow families recognize that they are welcome.

Naidoo suggested having materials that challenge gender stereotypes. Including books with single parents will allow children to infer if a character is single, if there are two mommies, or whatever may be their norm. Naidoo reported that while rainbow books are becoming more diverse, their characters are predominantly White, young and rarely are they differently-abled.

I hadn’t realized how tough it can be for GLBTQ children and teens to read, or want to read books with GLBT characters, who are possibly questioning their identity or not ready to share information with family or friends and they’re going to worry about being seen with this book. This book that librarians love to put stickers on and point at as being a rainbow book.

When evaluating rainbow books, issues to consider include the following.

  • Think about how the child reacts when realizing they’re gay.
  • How is his/her orientation explained?
  • How does the narrative present the lives of the gay character and their family?
  • How are illustrations portrayed? Are there stereotypes?
  • Are the characters oddities? Generalized? Preachy?

He mentioned many book awards which help with the selection of quality books. They include

  • ALA’s Rainbow Books
  • Stonewall Award
  • Amelia Book List (books with strong female characters)
  • Lambda Literary Awards

Naidoo shared several specific titles and publishers, some which he recommending more strongly than others.

Manu series: bilingual picture books from Spain

Keesha and her two mommies and other books by Black owned Dodi Press

In closing, Naidoo reminded session attendees that the balance to having gay books isn’t in having anti gay books but

click for preview!

rather, in having books with heterosexual characters. I’d add that we’re simply redefining the norm, that’s the challenge!

While Naidoo’s presentation was heavy on children’s literature, he presented concepts that are quite applicable to YA lit and most appropriate for this blog. I hope you’ve gotten as much from his presentation as I did. I didn’t take notes on everything he said because as typically happens in these sessions, the talk gets to interesting, that I stop writing and consequently miss the really good stuff. He talked about using books with animal characters with little kids, to have large crowds of people in signage so that the children who are sensitive to rainbow families will see the child with two daddies.  Allow children infer their own situation into the story. He promoted finding ways to get through to the children, to making that the intent.

Needless to say, I was glad I attended this session! In addition to learning ways to meet the needs of GLBT children, I learned that Naidoo has recently written a book to help with the selection of materials for GLBT children. No, I haven’t read it, but I have quite high expectations for it and feel comfortable recommending it to readers looking for quality GLBT books and CDs for young people.

If you are interested in more information, email me or leave your information in the comment section and I can send a copy of the handout from the session which includes a list of recommended board books, picture books, beginning reading books and chapter books as well as informational books, media and periodicals and resources for services and programs.

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