Saturday I was moving materials in and out of the Vortex for the library’s hardworking teen volunteers. I noticed the teen department had a display for GLBT Book Month and thought to myself that I really needed to get it together and make a display for our department already…
and then the next day I caught a couple of headlines before work, and by the time I had a chance to read a little further it had become clear that there had been a terrible shooting targeting the gay community in Orlando, committed by a man with some kind of association with ISIS.
I’ve already shared the best resources I know for talking with children about scary things in the news. Today I want to share some resources for talking with young people about tolerance and about extremism.
One of the most thoughtful people addressing this topic is Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core. Living in the Chicago area, you have probably heard him interviewed. This is from the introduction to his book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation:
This is a book about how some young people become champions of religious pluralism while others become the foot soldiers of religious totalitarianism. Its thesis is simple: influences matter, programs count, mentors make a difference, institutions leave their mark. When we look back in the lives of young religious terrorists, we find a web of individuals and organizations that shaped them. These young killers are not, for the most part, dramatically deranged individuals. They are kids who fell into murderously manipulative hands. …And then we should ask: why weren’t the hands of people who care about pluralism shaping that kid instead of the hands of religious totalitarians?
He writes about people from a variety of backgrounds who have fallen into extremism, as well as his model for people of different faiths learning and serving together. It’s a good book for any adult who cares about young people.
The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook is a title that is focused on individuals rather than an interfaith movement. I’m listing it because it offers basic information (an important alternative to online searches), is inclusive (taking the approach that it’s OK for people to disagree), and contains advice for how to “avoid extremism, fanaticism, radicalism, and other pesky ‘isms’.”
Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child has advice for any parent who worries about children living in a violent world. There is practical advice on raising children and preventing violence, and specific information on what behavior might be a sign that a child needs professional help.
Two organizations that are well known for identifying and opposing hate groups are the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. They offer tools for Education and Outreach and Teaching Tolerance. (A bonus this time of year is that in addition to resources for the school curriculum, there are also resources for summer camp.)
PFLAG is another well-known organization, offering support through local chapters to “LGBTQ individuals, family members and allies.” They are a good first place to look for information, resources, and community.
The GLBT Book Month link above has some resources for finding recommended books (“authors and writings that reflect the lives and experiences of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community”) including the Stonewall Book Awards List (which includes fiction and nonfiction for adults, children, and young adults) and the Rainbow Book List, which has titles for children and teens. The Horn Book Magazine also featured an article not long ago about Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Remy Charlip, and Tomie de Paola, five gay men who created beloved picture books.
It can be hard to talk to children about difficult and scary topics. But it’s important to make a start, to keep talking, and sometimes to get advice from other people who are also working to make their world a better place.