Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Middle Grade Monday – Labor Day Edition

I think about the Labor Movement a lot. What. I think about it every time I see this chart from Think Progress:

I also think about it every time one of my friends has her first baby. Because I give books as presents, and because this is one of my favorite books to give as a baby shower present, and because I have a constant stream of friends having babies, I think about the Labor Movement a lot.

Anyone who thinks the Labor Movement is a thing of the past is living in a dream world. We are headed for a new Labor Movement as companies continue to ‘push the envelope’ on what they can get away with in the treatment of their employees. Companies that see the profit margin as the only yardstick against which to measure their viability, as well as a shortsighted movement to value immediate profits for investors over creating a thriving middle class, will push us into it. Want to help prepare your students to be actively involved, contributing members of society? Good news! There have been a number of recent, highly regarded titles about key events in the Labor Movement – share them with your patrons!

 Start with Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin. This title starts with the horrific events of March 25, 1911, when 146 workers perished in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory – most because the doors were locked. It goes on to detail the resulting action taken by mostly immigrant workers that resulted in some of the most important labor laws we have in the United States.

Breaker Boys: How a Photograph Helped End Child Labor by Michael Burgan is a remarkable exploration of the work of Lewis Hine and his compatriots, who took over 7,000 photos of child laborers because they were convinced that they could change the public perception of child laborers. Their work was pivotal in the evolution of child labor law.

Some other notable titles to share include Kids on Strike by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Mother Jones: One Woman’s Fight for Labor by Betsy Kraft, and

Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York, 1880-1924 by Deborah Hopkinson.

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