Each month “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book that a homeschool parent may use to spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help a young learner understand human behavior. Using the acronym Q.U.I.L.T., Dr. Slaughter offers readers information about the author’s background along with the Quality of writing, Universal theme, Imaginative plot, as well as a mini Lesson plan, and Talking points that stem from the book’s premise.
Published in 1981, Alesia, by Eloise Greenfield and Alesia Revis, details the struggles a young African American girl who became physically disabled as the result of being hit by a car. There are few fiction books that include characters with disabilities and less that include People of Color with disabilities.
In the quest for disability representation, what readers are searching for is quality multicultural literature that “recognize, accept, and affirm human differences and similarities related to gender, race, handicap, and class” (Sleeter & Grant, 1988). As an educator, I join the quest of parents, teachers, and librarians who hope to find biased-free literature featuring people of color as fully developed characters.
Eloise Greenfield, Author
Born May 17, 1929 in North Carolina, Eloise moved to Washington, D.C., when she was very little. Growing up, one of five children, in Washington, D.C., Eloise took an interest in piano and reading. She didn’t find her passion for writing until she was in her late twenties. Her goal was to highlight African American culture in her writing.
Married with two children, and working as a clerk-typist at the U.S. Patent Office, Eloise carved out time to enjoy her passion for writing. She wrote everything including poetry and songs. Her writing was recognized by many notable writers earning her the Recognition of Merit Award in 1990. The award was presented by the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books in Claremont, California. Eloise also received an honorary degree from Wheelock College in Boston, MA. Although Eloise is a prolific writer, she never strayed from her main goal: to uplift the African American community. With that goal in mind, Eloise used her talents to provide free creative writing workshops to young people with the help of grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
Dr. Rachel A. slaughter
Dr. Rachel Slaughter earned her doctoral degree in Cognitive Studies in Reading at Widener University.
Quality- Alesia is written as a diary with the character detailing her life as a typical teen who happens to be physically handicapped. The diary entries are easy-going accounts of teen life with snippets of how Alesia’s disability affects her day to day existence.
Universal theme- We read her entries and realize that the Spring of 1980 was bursting full of fun stuff like school dances, family gatherings, and trips to McDonald’s. Alesia’s diary entries are not disheartening stories about how her physical disability disables her. Instead, Alesia details how her life with a wheelchair has a few pitfalls.
Alesia writes how she meets those pitfalls and challenges with grit, determination, courage, and humor. For example, in response to boys who are timid about her disability, Alesia writes, “When guys find out that I can’t walk…it scares them off before they can get to know me, and I want them to know me first, know what kind of person I am, and then I’ll tell them about my disability.”
Imaginative plot-People with physical and mental disabilities and their allies bewail the lack of representation in life and in fiction as well. The lack of representation in fiction is especially exasperating since fiction is limitless. A writer’s mind could conjure up a host of characteristics that reflect our cornucopia of experiences.
Lesson plan: According to research, inclusive literature that “reflects the diversity of children’s life experiences” help children feel safe and included. Writers can support an inclusivity by including characters with or without disabilities who share the gamut of experiences and emotions that humans encounter.
- What fiction books have you read that depict disabled people?
- In your opinion, why are people with mental or physical disabilities often left out of fiction?
- According to research, there are 5.8 million disabled children in America. What are some ways readers can demand that disabled people are properly and accurately represented in literature?
Dr. Rachel Slaughter
Doctor of Cognitive Studies in Reading
Dr. Rachel Slaughter earned her doctoral degree in Cognitive Studies in Reading at Widener University. Her dissertation explores multicultural literature in private schools through the lens of Critical Pedagogy. Her new book titled “Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature” will be published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2020.