Build your library with an icon of hope

Black History Month (February) is an invitation to recognize the human dignity of and celebrate the contributions of African Americans and people of the African diaspora. The images that surround us — television shows, magazines, Facebook friends and posts, teachers, preachers and other community leaders — shape how we see and who we see as valuable in the world.

Black History Month (February) is an invitation to recognize the human dignity of and celebrate the contributions of African Americans and people of the African diaspora.

We place special emphasis on reading as we raise our children because this skill opens them to a world of opportunity. Our commitment to the Bible, reminds us that the content of what we read is as important as the ability to read. Unfortunately, in the books we read to our children, people of color are still underrepresented. In an article in the New York Times, “Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.”

So why is there such gross underrepresentation? What do our children learn when the images they see do not represent the diverse peoples of the world whom God created? As people of faith, how can we respond to this kind of misrepresentation?

We can fill our Sunday school classes, ministry settings and homes with the diverse books that we do have. We can request them at our local libraries and bookstores often enough that publishers ask for more. Here are great examples:

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu

God Has a Dream

This Nobel Peace Laureate is one of the greatest living moral icons of our time. He was a key role player in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. He was also the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town and primate of the Anglican Church of South Africa. Though his vigorous advocacy of social justice once rendered him a controversial figure, today Archbishop Tutu is regarded as an elder world statesman with a major role to play in reconciliation, and as a leading moral voice. He has become an icon of hope far beyond the Church and Southern Africa (reprinted from www.tutu.org).

Suggested children’s books by Archbishop Tutu:

Children of God Storybook Bible

Children of God Storybook Bible

“The Bible says that each and every one of us — every girl and every boy — is a very special person … God also wants us to fill our lives with love. Jesus says we should love God, love other people, and love ourselves. How do we do this? By doing three important things: Do what is RIGHT, be KIND TO ONE ANOTHER, and be FRIENDS WITH GOD” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).

This unique collection of Bible stories is a wonderful teaching tool. Each beautifully simplified story begins with a specific theme and ends with a short, one-sentence prayer on that theme. Archbishop Tutu breaks down 56 familiar stories into small, easy-to-manage bites for children of all ages. The stories are beautifully adorned with illustrations contributed by 20 different artists: from Argentina, China, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Each puts his or her own cultural and stylistic flare into the pictures. It would be a wonderful introduction to the Bible at home or in Sunday School.

God’s Dream

God’s Dream

“Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokeness, with all the worst we can imagine … The most unlikely person, the most improbable situation — these are all ‘transfigurable’ — they can be turned into their glorious opposites. Indeed, God is transforming the world now — through us — because God loves us” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream, 2004).

“Tutu teaches a message of peace and hope in this gentle picture book, echoing the theological ideology of his memoir, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (Doubleday, 2004). ‘Dear Child of God,’ the narrator begins, ‘what do you dream about?’ … In simple, eloquent language, Tutu conveys the message that although we come from different lands, have different eyes and skin, and talk to God in different ways, we are still brothers and sisters …” (Linda L. Walkins, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Brighton, Mass. (from School Library Journal).

A Theological Reflection on God’s Dream

by Tura Foster Gillespie, Wesley Seminarian

“Archbishop Tutu makes his interpretation of the Bible’s message easy to understand even for the youngest among us. Like Jesus, he says that God’s dream is that we love God and love each other. Using the simplest words and examples, Archbishop Tutu and co-author Doug Abrams teach forgiveness, empathy, and what it looks like to love all of God’s children.

In their full length book, God Has a Dream, they go into detail about exactly how “God is transforming the world now — through us — because God loves us.” These are concepts we teach over and over in our churches, but do we really know how to embody them?

Tutu and Abrams give wonderful radical but concrete lessons in how to do so. Using these books in your church can help focus all of your worship and missions on the love God feels for all of God’s children and how we can live them out for others.”

Click here for a resource to use with God’s Dream in your church.

Archbishop Tutu’s books can be purchased at Cokesbury including:

Editor's note:: Tura Foster Gillespie is a Social Justice Intern from Wesley Theological Seminary working in Women’s & Children’s Advocacy at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society.

Letter to the Editor