Finally, I can announce the news: I am the new PostDoc at the Social Justice Research Institute at Brock University. Brock is a big university in St. Catharine's, Ontario- (for my American dears, its in Eastern Canada- or at least, more East than Vancouver. Don't worry I had to have a geography lesson about this as well). I'll stay in the Bay Area for now, and commute a couple times a year.
And I will write. Oh gosh will I write. I will write and write and write.
I'm sitting in a coffee shop right now and I'm doodling about all the things I will write about. Multiliteracies and youth media production and digital worlds and social media and activism and justice and gender and girls and all the things. It feels like possibility has broken wide open again- like I cracked open a stone that I had given up on, and inside, there were those beautiful purple crystals just waiting to be discovered.
I cannot wait to really do a deep-dive into the way high profile girl activists are narrating gender justice issues in digital social networks, and to spend some time tracing how their creations move in across social networks. I cannot wait to sift through ideas and write back to the literacy research world about youth and media and digital.
I was just about to throw in the towel- to say, you know, I wanted academe, but academe didn't want me. But then this happened. Which is to say, when you reach what you feel like is the end of your own once-upon-a-time-vision, apply for that one last thing that probably won't work anyway. Because it might crack open possibility. (Also, note to self: take this advice yourself.)
This last application? I was really seen. My work was seen for exactly what it is: knowledge about youth, video and photo production, and social justice. I'm at the Social Justice Research Institute with a mentor (Canada Research Chair of Multiliteracies, Dr. Jennifer Rowsell) where I can, quite simply, do exactly what I love the most: writing on youth, media and social justice. That is good enough. That is inspiring. That is real. That involves young people and schools and literacy.
I'm also seriously looking forward to working with a prominent scholar who is also a mama, and who can show me the mama-academic ropes. I've often wondered how academic women with children do it- how do they manage to continue to think and write about literacies and digitality and youth even as they change four cajillion diapers and simultaneously feed babies in the middle of the night, cook child-friendly meals, and manage shot appointments and swim lessons? How do they show up as writers to think carefully and critically as much as they show up as mamas to love with abandon and protect sticky little fingers from getting into every single electrical outlet there ever was?
I am so, so excited. I'll be posting here regularly as I write- previews, working-throughs, ideas, happenings- and I hope you'll join me for this adventure!
Initially posted for Zavaleta Studios.
The thing is, raising young children is isolating. We've all hear that old and tired adage "it takes a village to raise a child." Now if only we had a dollar for every time we wondered where the hell our villages are.
When you're tired because you woke up at 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and then at 7 for the day, you need people. Maybe you have enough people helping you, but its hard for me to imagine and I've got a mother who washes bottles like nobody's business and an aunt who likes to cuddle on her days off and lots of friends looking as bleary eyed from babies as they did from vodka-tonics. I mean I do have twins, but I think I'd need a nap even if there was only one, and especially if one of them was a toddler. In truth, I like a good casserole as much as the next sleep-deprived parent subsisting on dehydrated yogurt drops their child rejected, but more than that, I need others who are debating baby led weaning, preschool enrollment, and the merits of books like "Go the f*ck to sleep." It seems weird, but this is exactly where music comes in.
For decades and decades, cultures of people have turned to the arts in order to understand how they belong in the world. We need the arts- music, painting, theatre, basket weaving, and the like- in order to make sense of ourselves. In worlds different than the one I inhabit, women came together and sang with their babies on their backs. I so often long for that kind of camraderie- just to know, that others are where I am, and others were where we are, and others will be where we are- just to know, there is a pattern to the madness, some kind of rhythm associated with dumping organic purple carrot-beet puffs onto my childs' high chair tray, only to have her discover that is she slams both hands onto the tray, she can bounce said puffs several feet in the air and sometimes the dog can catch them.
But in all seriousness, we need community. We need to feel like we're part of something bigger. For decades and decades, in villages and cities around the world, music has served as that connective tissue: the conduit for building community practices, cultures, and knowledges. In that tradition, we run our baby/child music classes: incorporating songs and sounds and instruments from Mexico, Cuba, the US, various African countries, and elsewhere, we play djembes and shake maracas, we sing in English and we sing in Spanish. The hopefulness of singing off tune (I promise to be horribly off tune and unable to keep a beat, so don't get nervous) bleeds into the conversations about child rearing and what it means to mother, to father, to raise children at a moment that is complicate and digital and busy like never before. So take a break. Come on down, sing, play, and explore.
Check out our classes: http://www.zavaletastudios.com/#!familymusica/osrd5
Initially published on www.zavaletastudios.com
So if you have young children, it's likely you've heard about early literacy and the many, many things you can do to set your wee one up for success. Maybe you've built a book nook (we have!) or maybe you read seven stories before bed every night (bless your heart) or maybe you point out words and writing when you come across it in the real world. Whatever you're doing, you are probably rocking it.
And it's always a good idea to keep rocking it, especially when rocking out with the kiddos at a music class has such awesome literacy benefits. So here's a few key highlights about the incredible stuff that happens when you start to sing. Whether you're going to join us at Tiny Tots Música or you're going to sing in the shower with a kid or two, rock on.
Music Encourages Language
One of the most critical pieces for little ones getting read to talk, listen, read and write is being exposed to lots, and lots, and lots of words. Like really, lots. It turns out that we adults tend to use the same words over and over again in our speech- this is why reading books is so great. Even the simplest children's books tend to have more word variety than our everyday speech. If you're tired of read the same old farm board book, why not try singing the Beatles or dancing along to Wheels on the Buss? It doesn't matter what you sing, it matters that you sing. Otherwise your child may never know that there are yellow submarines where whole communities of people live. I mean really, when else would that word come up?
Music Helps Little Ones Learn To Listen
When my partner was learning English (he's a Spanish speaker) there were many words he would confuse. My two favourite sets of confusing-similar-sounding words are: mistletoe/mazeltov, and bear/bird/bear/bar/bare/beer. Now, I never would mix up mistletoe for mazeltov--- but they do sound very similar. Same with bear/bird/bear/bar/bare/beer-- very similar words. Listening to music has been shown time and again to support children as they learn to differentiate these kinds of words. So come on out, make sure your child hears you singing, and we'll make up a song about mistletoe and mazeltov, just in case we ever need to differentiate between those words.
Music Builds Relationships
Literacy is dependent on human relationships: we need each other in order to make sense of the world. Your children need you to show them how to tell stories, how to participate in a group, how to laugh and learn even when you're embarrassed because you hit the drum on the wrong beat (well, I'm teaching the twins this last one, because I can never stay on beat!). Making music with a community of people fosters relationship building, and relationships encourage growth and exploration. Children need these kinds of safe spaces in order to begin to explore language, storytelling, and indeed, music.
So keep rocking out. Rock out to your favourite oldies station. Rock out to Pandora. Rock out to Old McDonald. Rock out to classical jazz. Just rock out.
Chelsey is a digital storyteller, geek, mama, researcher and yogi. She loves to make things and her favorite food is artichokes.