Romani and Traveller kids deserve heroes too

- Blog | Stanislav Daniel

Marley Dias loves books, but finds it weird that within their pages there were no black-girl heroes to which she can relate. Born from frustration this 11-year-old started a campaign called #1000blackgirlbooks, which attracted international attention. A year ago, The Guardian and other big media outlets brought Marley’s campaign to a wider public.

This week, Marley Dias, now 12, is in press again. Following the publicity garnered by her campaign she has signed a book deal with children’s publishing company, Scholastic. She will be an author and the main character of her own book. We keep our fingers crossed for her and wonder how many other children, including young Roma and Travellers, have similar experiences?  How many children explore literature but fail to find characters that reflect their own lives and experiences?

Growing up as a Czechoslovakian-Romani child, I too, lacked the chance to read about Romani heroes. Only years later did I discover Romani fairytales and later other heroes, like Rukeli Trollmann. But we are missing stories for the youngest children. There are some authors, albeit grown-up-ones, who have stepped up to help Roma children find themselves between the covers of a good book.

Richard O’Neill is a Romani storyteller who, in 2016, published two books; “Yokki and the Parno Gryand “Ossiri and the Bala Mengro”. Both books capture young children’s imaginations by presenting stories from Romani and Traveller communities. Yokki lifts the spirits of a struggling Traveller family while Ossiri, a Traveller girl, creates her own musical instrument from a willow branch and lots of recycled objects. And through these beautiful stories, Richard O’Neill reminds us of the ancient Romani art of storytelling.

It is crucial to ensure that Romani and Traveller children from an early age can identify with the heroes they read about. It is important for the development of healthy identities and it is better than giving up on book because they cannot relate to the characters. And so, while we wait for more young children to publish their own books, just like Marley Dias, we at REYN are extremely happy to see adult authors write about Romani children, for Romani children.

Online Course Embracing Diversity in Kindergarten Classrooms in Serbian

- Blog | REYN Admin

A free online course, entitled Embracing Diversity in Kindergarten Classrooms, delivered in Serbian language, is launched in June. The course aims to help practitioners working in kindergarten settings to understand their role in the processes of discrimination and oppression. This course will be particularly useful to practitioners who work in diverse settings, with a focus on inclusion of Roma children. It will provide a professional development opportunity for early childhood educators in deepening their skills so that their work with children provides a foundation that will better prepare them to live and work in the 21st century.

The course is the result of a partnership project. ISSA and UNESCO are joining forces to further strengthen the capacities of practitioners working in kindergarten settings to address diversity, with a focus on Roma children. With funding from the Open Society Foundations and UNESCO, ISSA and CIP/Center for Interactive Pedagogy/Serbia have worked together to develop this course, building on the experience of the Education for Social Justice Program, carried out in the ISSA network. The partnership also builds on ISSA’s previous experience working with online platforms for shared learning among practitioners and in projects aiming at Roma inclusion in early years services.

The course will begin in June 2013 and will go through December 2013. ISSA plans to organize future online trainings for REYN members, in different languages.