Jay Sand answers 7 questions

Jay Sand is a musician and educator

1. Why are you an educator?

I’m both and educator and musician, and have chosen to work mainly with young children, because I simultaneously fear for the world and feel great hope for humans to fix it. While I’m acutely aware of the many messes we’ve gotten ourselves into, I believe that we have brought most of our problems on ourselves — racism, class/economic conflict, our inability (unwillingness?) to end wars. The more children we raise with an open-minded, open-hearted appreciation of the world the more power they’ll have to make a better world by making different, better choices.

2. What are you working on now?

My global music and world cultures educational program, All Around This World, connected with a lot of families and schools internationally through the pandemic, so I’m enthusiastic about expanding globally. I’m currently building a network of international culture-bearers who are contributing to my curriculum, and I’m seeking educators worldwide to train so they can teach my multilingual songs and cultural lessons in their countries. I’m also forming a fantastic multicultural performance band — the Global Orchestra! — and seeding a fund to support traditional musicians who are in financial need.

3. What were your favorite children’s books to read when you were a child?

My first book memory is Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar, and of course everything Dr. Seuss. When I got older I went into Choose Your Own Adventures, the Hardy Boys (I must have read hundreds of them), and Encyclopedia Brown, who always found a clever way to solve a mystery. From there I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, which felt like a natural lead in to all things Tolkien, who I know isn’t a children’s author, but no one told me that.

4. What contemporary children’s books do you recommend? 

My kids are teenagers now and pressed through a million kids’ books pretty quickly into YA, but when they were little, in addition to that resilient Caterpillar, together we enjoyed classics like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Caps for Sale (so many monkeys!). They moved on to love books about Eloise, Madeline, and also Ivy and Bean, and read all of Roald Dahl, especially Matilda. Musically…

I make music in the children’s music world and could list a hundred artists whose work I love, so I’ll stick with my kids’ favorites when they were just a bit younger, such as They Might Be Giants kids albums, Putumayo Kids, the Okee Dokee Brothers and Dan Zanes. One of our all time favorites still is Elena Moon Park’s “Rabbit Days and Dumplings.”

5. Why is diverse representation in children’s literature important?

Kids learn so much by watching their families, teachers and leaders of their communities demonstrate kind (or unkind) behavior. They look at others then try out those ways of being as they build a sense of themselves. When kids soak in media that tells stories of a diversity of people from seemingly diverse backgrounds wrestling with the same dilemmas, having to decide how to navigate the world — especially if they see characters of their own race or culture among the wrestlers — they realize that a person’s race or ethnicity or country of origin is not as important as the way we ultimately choose to act toward each other.

6. How can educators use children’s literature to teach empathy, kindness, and tolerance?

I teach global music to young children with the goal of imparting and inspiring empathy, kindness and tolerance, so I love this question. I believe educators can open the world to their kids by actively welcoming children’s media into their classrooms that tell stories from as many cultures and countries as possible, emphasizing the unity of all people — “we are all the same!” — at the same time as they celebrate what makes each of us unique, “…and we are also all different.” This is possible! Educators can absolutely help kids find pride in themselves, their families and their own way of life, by taking them on journeys into other cultures.

7. Where may we find you online?


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