Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The NCBLA and President Obama Believe Citizens in a Democracy Have the Responsibility to Inform Themselves About Issues from a Variety of Perspectives


"The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, the NCBLA, created the national award winning book Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out because we believe that literacy is essential to the development of responsible citizens in a democracy.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1820: 'I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.'

The more education Americans have, the more likely they are to be active citizens and vote in national and local elections.  Building on the links between literacy, historical literacy, and civic engagement, in Our White House and www.ourwhitehouse.org, we share historic and civic information that will help young people become thoughtful, engaged citizens. 

We encourage you and the young people in your life to seek legitimate news sources. Read newspapers, news magazines, and books in both traditional and electronic formats, moving beyond television sound bites and blog blurbs, seeking a variety of perspectives. As citizens, young and old, we need to make thoughtful decisions about national issues, national leadership, and our future; we can only do so if we are responsibly informed."

It seems President Obama feels the same way. In a commencement speech at the University of Michigan last week, President Obama stated:

"If you're someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you're a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. So too is the practice of engaging in different experiences with different kinds of people. 

For four years at Michigan, you have been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars; professors and students. Do not narrow that broad intellectual exposure just because you're leaving here. Instead, seek to expand it. If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with some who grew up in a rural town. If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your race or your ethnicity or your religion, broaden your circle to include people who've had different backgrounds and life experiences. You'll learn what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes, and in the process, you'll help make this democracy work."

Introduce your kids, and yourself, to a wide variety of perspectives  on issues and current events. And take a look not only at the great art, poetry, information, and personal essays in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, but also at the "bookend" sections related to the War of 1812 and September 11th, where we "have purposely juxtaposed contradictory primary and secondary historical sources so that young people can experience what historians often discover in their search for objective truth – multiple perspectives representing different points of view."

We want to inspire young people to seek reliable historic and contemporary information sources that represent a wide variety of perspectives. We hope they will read, listen to, and reflect on these sources with a critical eye and ear, then discuss their thoughts and opinions with you – in the car, at the dinner table, and in the classroom.

Ask for Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out at your neighborhood library or bookstore, and read it aloud with the young people in your life! 

And be sure to check out the NCBLA's companion educational website at: www.ourwhitehouse.org 

Our White House Awards and Distinctions:
  • 2009-2010 National Endowment for the Humanities We the People “Picturing America
    Bookshelf Award
  • 2009 American Library Association’s Great Web Sites for Kids 
  • 2009 American Library Association Notable Children’s Book for All Ages, Nonfiction
  • 2009 National Council for Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council Notable
    Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
  • 2009 International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices Booklist Selection
  • Amazon.com Best Books of 2008 Top 10 Editors’ Pick for Middle Reader
  • Parents’ Choice Foundation Recommended Book Award, Fall 2008
  • School Library Journal Best Books of the Year 2008
  • The Horn Book Fanfare, Best Books of 2008
  • Publisher’s Weekly 2008 Best Books of the Year, Children’s Nonfiction
  • Publishers Weekly 2008 Cuffie Award,
    Best Nonfiction Treatment of a Subject, Honorable Mention
  • Scripps-Howard News Service Favorite Children's Book of 2008