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Online, video, and hard copy books available soon! 

Want a copy sent to your school, daycare, or other center? E-mail info@mtmadison.com for details! 

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This project is supported by a grant from Dane Arts with additional support from the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation. It is also supported by a grant from the Madison Arts Commission with additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board.

 

The Children's Book Project is supported by an Innovation and Exploration grant from the Nationall Alliance for Musical Theatre's Frank Young Fund for New Musicals.  

In the summer of 2020, as we thought about ways to continue bringing musical theatre to our community in a safe and unique way, Executive Director Meghan Randolph began to resurrect an old idea for a children's book that she'd been kicking around for a few years. With little direction, she began doing some research, and came across the article "Black Lives Matter in Children's Books Too," from CNN. From there, the Children's Book Project was born. 

The arts community has long been working to improve accessibility and representation. One thing we've learned is just how important it is to introduce kids to positive depictions of themselves at an early age. We also know that music and theatre enhance children's empathy, understanding, IQ, verbal skills, and more.

 

So, why not combine both? A story for now that will make a difference for a long time in the future, told with music that moves the narrative forward as in a musical. And so, we started learning about trends in children's books, tropes and fallacies in storytelling, and ways that our book could be most impactful. We committed to a BBIPOC creative team who could share their lived experiences in telling the story and found a remarkable group to write, illustrate, and compose the piece, which would feature characters that are pathetically underrepresented in children's literature, including BBIPOC kids and kids with disabilities or mental health conditions. 

When it's all done, this multi-faceted project will consist of: 

  • Print versions of the book in English and Spanish, with a playlist included to hear the songs as the book is being read.

  • E-books in English and Spanish with the same playlist included. 

  • An online "read-aloud" video featuring the illustrations, voiced, sung, and narrated by local youth actors and including an ASL translator. 

  • Free distribution to 100 Dane County libraries, schools, and community centers

  • Sales of the books for whomever would like a copy

  • Visits to schools and libraries across Dane County to do readings, sing-alongs, and discussions with kids

  • Online educational content that will include the sheet music and an adapted short play version for kids to act out with their friends. 

Keep an eye on this page as this large project continues to develop! In the meantime, check out our research on children's books, literacy, music, and more, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates as the creative process moves along! 

 
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Statistics and Research

Racial inequities in characters and authors

There is a striking need for children's books that are both written by and feature BBIPOC (Black, Brown, Indigenous, People of Color) characters. Madison is fortunate to be home to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, a nationally-renowned source for collecting official data on children's books.  According to their research, a staggering 50% of children's book characters are white, and 27% are non-human. See their most recent diversity statistics here. 

Additional articles and resources: 

"Why We Need Diverse Books" _NEA

"There's a major lack of diversity in children's books" - Scary Mommy

"Can diversity in children's books tackle prejudice?" - CNN

1000 Black Girl Books

We Need Diverse Books

"Children's books can help start a conversation about race..."  The Washington Post

"50 children's books that celebrate diversity" - The Every Mom

"Anti-Racism Books For Kids" - The New York Times

Inequities in the depiction of characters with disabilities

According to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, only about 3.4% of children's books depict a person with a disability. Sadly, most of those books use the person with the disability as a means to inspire a non-disabled person. 

"We need children to see disability as part of the norm..." - BookTrust

"Disability in children's books has a long way to go" - BitchMedia

"Children with disabilities aren't seeing themselves in the books they read..." - Toronto Star

"75 books about children with disabilities." - Exceptional Thinkers

Improvement of learning and cognition through music

The Benefits of Music Education | Parenting… -PBS Kids
 

10 Reasons Why Arts in Education Is so Important for Kids - Learning to Lift

 

How Children Benefit from Music Education in Schools -NAMM Foundation
 

Arts Education Is A Social Justice Issue — CREATIVE GENERATION

 

How Can Music Inspire Social Change? -Facing History​

Literacy in Wisconsin schools

Nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin school kids can't read or write at grade level - The Center Square
 

Literacy Problems Called A 'Silent Crisis' In Wisconsin -NPR
 

Phonics in focus: Advocates push Wisconsin for 'science of reading' - Wisconsin State Journal
 

Fifty Top Literacy Statistics - Ferst Readers