And we’re back with another entry in our Behind the Blog feature, which celebrates fellow children’s literature bloggers! So far in this series we’ve featured Fab Book Reviews, Unleashing Readers and Gathering Books – be sure to check out them out!
This week we’re talking with Alia Jones, the blogger behind Read It Real Good.
Please introduce yourself!
Hi! My name is Alia Jones and I’m currently a Library Services Assistant in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Before working in a library, I was a children’s bookseller at two indie bookstores for two years. I went to college for cultural anthropology and lived in South Korea for four years as an elementary school English teacher.
How would you describe Read It Real Good?
I started Read It Real Good to share excellent children’s books, especially excellent diverse children’s books. I want it to be a resource for parents, librarians and teachers to help them find new diverse books to add to their collections. Through short, insightful reviews, I aim to pique the interest of readers so that they’ll check out the books for themselves (and maybe find a new favorite). I use my blog to discuss topics related to diversity in children’s literature and I occasionally conduct interviews with authors and illustrators that I admire.
What inspired you to start blogging?
After I left my first bookstore position, I missed talking about kids books. I missed being around them. My cousin suggested I start a blog and a Twitter page; she encouraged me to create a strong online presence. Because I’ve always loved to write, I jumped at the opportunity to write about children’s literature and to create a space uniquely my own. My blog quickly became a creative outlet where I could share my love for kids books with the world.
How have your experiences at home (as a student of cultural anthropology and an intern at NMAI) and abroad (as a teacher in Korea) helped shape your approach to children’s literature, and to blogging?
I’ve always loved learning about different people’s experiences. As a child, I sought out books that took me to other countries and taught me about other cultures. So it was a natural decision for me to study cultural anthropology in college. As a young reader, I was drawn to black girls in books; it was powerful to see and read about girls who looked like me. Stories like Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe and the American Girl “Addy Walker” books were treasures to me. As a bookseller, I worked to diversify the inventories of my bookstores and showcase multicultural books. Children seek out diverse books and deserve to see themselves in the stories they read. I see my blog as an opportunity to educate, introduce and boost marginalized authors/illustrators and their work.
As a bookseller, did you notice any major trends in children’s literature, or see any changes in what publishers are publishing, or consumers are buying?
“Meta” picture books are still popular. Children enjoy humorous stories that make them feel like they are inside of the book. Publishers are putting money behind leveled readers but most of these books feature licensed characters like Batman and Hello Kitty. There’s potential there for original content to shine because parents and kids really enjoy leveled readers. Consumers are also buying a lot of early chapter books (like Ivy & Bean and Magic Treehouse) and publishers would be smart to realize that this is an area in which more diverse content would flourish. In the last few years, there has been a slight increase in diverse books and #ownvoices stories published, but there’s still much work to be done. The stats aren’t any where where they need to be for real representation. There is a misconception that diverse books don’t sell. They do. Angie Thomas’ debut book, The Hate U Give is proof of that; it’s a New York Times best seller and my pick for the 2018 Printz Award. Book buyers, booksellers and librarians have to make it a priority to highlight diverse books.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
A few of my favorite authors from childhood are Lois Lowry, J.K. Rowling, Donna Jo Napoli, John Steptoe and Eloise Greenfield. Some of my current favorites are Jason Reynolds, Hena Khan, Patrick Ness, Margarita Engle, Francisco X. Stork, Matt de la Peña, Victoria Jamieson and Julie Flett.
When you’re not reading kids books, what kinds of books do you like to read?
There are other kinds of books?? Haha. I mostly read kids books but I really enjoyed Britt Bennett’s The Mothers. Great storytelling. I just finished Thi Bui’s illustrated memoir, The Best We Could Do. That is an amazingly poignant book and one I’ll recommend for a long time. I have a soft spot for romance novels; I used to read them like crazy in high school! I can’t resist a good romance, especially historical ones that feature women of color. I’m starting to get into non-fiction; I recently read The March Against Fear by Ann Bausum and really enjoyed the experience.
What are some of your favourite children’s literature blogs to follow?
I like to read these blogs by fellow colleagues & friends. Many of them focus on diverse books, parenting and storytelling: https://campbele.wordpress.com
Thank you so much for stopping by, Alia! Be sure to check out Read It Real Good for more children’s book reviews and musings on diversity!
Do you blog about kids books? Would you like to be featured here on Behind the Blog? Let us know – we’re always looking to spread the word about great kids book blogs!