My name is Alejandro and I’m the CEO of Springboard Collaborative. It has recently come to my attention that some books on the Reading A-Z (RAZ) platform do not reflect our shared antiracist values. I want to candidly and transparently share more context.
One of the books on RAZ is titled Curls that Swirl. The cover would lead you to believe that this book is aligned with our values; it depicts a young girl of color with beautiful, curly hair! Unfortunately, it’s a purely racist text with a negative portrayal of self-image in relationship to hair texture. This is personal for me. As a Puerto Rican with curly hair, it took me 27 of the 31 years I’ve been alive to finally embrace my hair. Kids mercilessly made fun of my skin color and hair texture throughout my childhood and adolescence. These are wounds that never fully heal. To see this racist book make it into a phonics lesson makes my heart hurt. If any of you came across it, I am deeply sorry!
As soon as we found out about Curls That Swirl, we created an internal task force to review other books on the Reading A-Z platform. Though this product is not affiliated with Springboard, we feel responsible for the tools we share with families. Unfortunately, there are several books on this platform that reinforce racial and gender stereotypes.
One of Springboard’s team members spent a full day researching other ebook platforms to find an alternative. Every single one includes racist books. Every. Single. One. This is a stark reminder that racism exists everywhere; it seeps into every corner of American life, including and especially children’s literature. In some ways, this is how racism is taught and learned. I can’t tell you how many times I read a book in school that made me feel “other” or “less than.”
The answer can’t simply be to boycott every platform, or to give families fewer resources. Parents—we will honor our commitment to provide ebooks and will give you continued access to the RAZ platform through the end of programming. How you use it, if at all, is completely up to you. We want your family to have access to books, and we also want you to be able to make informed decisions about which books to read (and which ones to avoid).
Here are some concrete actions Springboard is taking:
– We’re putting processes in place to more stringently review books in Springboard’s orbit. Clearly, we can’t trust publishers’ judgment; we need to have more safeguards in place.
– Springboard and Teach For America are working together to compel Reading A-Z (a separate company) to change their practices. We are demanding that RAZ remove racist books from circulation. If you come across any books you found offensive, please let me know so that I can pass along the message. Conversely, please let me know if you have any book, vendor, or author recommendations that celebrate the diversity of the communities Springboard serves!
– Of course, the absence of racism isn’t enough; organizations (and individuals) are responsible for being antiracist. I have asked Reading A-Z leadership to commit to raising the standard of their literature (not only in terms of diversity, but also the messages and values within the books). Most important of all, I’m asking the company to diversify their leadership and their writing staff. This will go far in addressing the root cause of the problem.
– Stay tuned for a blog post from Springboard sharing reflections as well as a call to action about the need for diverse and inclusive books that promote equity and self-worth.
This is ongoing work, and it will never be done. But I’m grateful to be in this together. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or comments!