Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza met in the mid 90s as grad students in Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. Together, they developed and taught children's literature courses to pre-service teachers, with an emphasis on multicultural literature. They began writing together in 1998 when they read Ann Rinaldi's My Heart Is On The Ground. Research on Rinaldi's book led to articles in several journals, such as Multicultural Review. One of their most-read articles is Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls. They have other projects in the works, too!
|Photo courtesy of Cynthia Leitich Smith|
Information about Debbie:
- I was raised on our reservation, Nambe Pueblo, in northern New Mexico. After graduating from Pojoaque High School, I got a BS in Education from the University of New Mexico.
- I taught Native and non-Native children in public schools in Albuquerque and Pojoaque and then Native children at boarding schools in Oklahoma and New Mexico.
- I quit teaching to pursue a PhD in Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
- I taught at UIUC's College of Education, GSLIS, and was on the faculty in American Indian Studies for several years.
- I earned a MLIS from San Jose State University.
- I've published several articles and book chapters. For details, see my CV.
- I've earned respect of key figures in children's lit, like SLJ blogger Elizabeth Bird, who wrote about "the Debbie Reese stamp of approval"
Information about Jean:
My perspective on Indigenous issues has been informed by my family relationships and friendships. I am a European-American who married into a Mvskoke (Creek) family and reared 4 children for whom being Creek is an important part of identity. My professional work has been heavily influenced by knowing and collaborating with Debbie Reese, with whom I share strong interests in the role of popular culture (i.e., literature, film, and mass media) in supporting or undermining the overall well-being of children, including their understandings of their own cultural backgrounds and those of people “different” from themselves.
I hold a PhD in curriculum and instruction (early childhood focus) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology, and an M.Ed in early childhood from UIUC.
As a UIUC graduate student and on faculty at Millikin University, I taught children’s literature courses to traditional and non-traditional undergraduate teacher education students. Those classes emphasized literature that enables young people to encounter, reflect on, and better understand the diversity of human experience -- including the perspectives of Indigenous peoples, who continue to be misrepresented in popular culture through images created by writers and illustrators who are not Native.
In 2015, Debbie began consulting with individual writers on the Native content in their manuscripts. In 2016, Jean began doing that work, too. As of today (May 16, 2016) we are not accepting additional manuscripts. We are reflecting on the experience we've had thus far to determine what is--and what is not--realistic for us to do as we go forward with our research and writing.
This page was updated on May 16, 2016.