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Murphy Library held the 7th annual Multicultural Children’s Literature Event in April 2013 with guest speaker Thomas Peacock, member of the Ojibwe Tribe of Northern Wisconsin. Peacock, children’s book author and university professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth and Troy University in Tampa Bay, was accompanied by his wife Betsy Peacock. Together they spoke to record-breaking crowds in the Alice Hagar Curriculum Center in a unique way by using stories written by Peacock for the occasion. Peacock covered themes such as symptoms of despair in a culture that has been compromised, identity, learning and special needs, adapting, and finding one’s ancestral cultural identity.
This year’s event also branched out in a new collaboration with a local grade school, North Woods International. Local educators came to North Woods International to hear Peacock speak and read from one of his books for children, “The Four Hills of Life,” about the cycles of life that follow the seasons. The session was streamed back to a campus classroom for students by a partnership of UWL’s brilliant tech team, led by Terry Wirkus, and IT professionals from the La Crosse School District. Peacock then returned to North Woods the following day for a lively and engaging reading of his book, “The Four Hills of Life,” with several classes of fourth and fifth graders.
Peacock explained that in his culture, it is not acceptable to offer direct advice to others about how to live their lives. Instead they tell stories to illustrate their points in a less threatening way. Attendees also learned about how often Native American students are put in special education classes, often unnecessarily.
The Multicultural Children’s Literature Event series was developed in 2007 through a partnership between Murphy Library and the UWL School of Education. It has grown, thanks to generous sponsorship from Murphy Library endowment funds, the School of Education, and the UWL CampusClimateOffice.
Attendees have a chance to learn about a culture that might be new to them, be exposed to viewpoints, stories, and bibliographies, and hear a perspective that is not from the main stream media. One goal of the series is to help teacher candidates be more sensitive to diversity they may find in their classrooms and work environments. Through direct participation with speakers and authors who represent different cultures, attendees have an opportunity to eliminate bias and stereotypes.
-sponsored by Murphy Library, Campus Climate and Diversity, and the School of Education