Sunday, March 16, 2014

In the News: Multicultural Children's Lit

Today's New York Times brought two editorial about the dearth of children's books about people of color,  "Where are the People of Color in Children's Books" and  "The Apartheid of Children's Literature." The authors have different approaches to the topic, but both agree that lack of representation of children of color presents problems for those who aren't represented in books and for those who never encounter people different from themselves in books.

We live in a small New England city that is now a majority minority city.  For LB, that diversity is normal in her everyday life, but I've realized that diversity isn't as normal for her in books.  Aside from Dora, Black and Brown characters are unusual enough that she will point them them out and ask if they are related to one of the Black or Brown kids she knows in real life.  At three LB has internalized the idea that white people are the norm in books and people of color are the exception.

Apparently it's not just us, the Times states that only 93 of 3200 children's books published in 2013 were about African Americans, city a study by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at Madison.  You can find the study here.

I've always thought our book collection was pretty diverse, but it's about to get EVEN MORE DIVERSE.  It should not be so hard to find kids books featuring people of color, and it's frustrating how quickly the books that do get published go out of print, but their are some good options out there.  Below are some books that we already have and others that I am ordering now.

This was my favorite new book of 2013.  It's a family story from the 3rd Great Migration with lovely illustrations.

I think these Lola books are super cute, and address issues of interest to LB (we met a support dog named Fletcher at the library this weekend and got to read with him).

 Rachel Isadora does a lot of nice books.  I particularly like this one:

I Can Do It Too! is a very compelling message for LB these days.

There are quite a few Civil Rights Era-related kids books out there.  The book about Claudette Colvin in one of my favorites, but too old for LB, so I'm taking a chance and ordering this book.

More to come about some of the multicultural kids books that should still be in print.  And if anyone has suggestions for other books, I'd love to hear them.


  1. I'm so glad you're writing more - I love it! Most of our books at this age are animal books and our most diverse books are primarily the lesbian family books. We do own Whistle for Willie, which is a delightful (the first time you read it) trek through the day of a child as he learns to whistle. After about the 10th time, his trek gets old and you kind of just want to skip to him shouting "It's me!" so the toddler will follow suit. I love the illustrations, though. Thanks for these other ideas - we really should not be buying more books as we practically own a children's library, but I agree that it's important to add to the diversity.

  2. I'm glad I'm back too, although I don't know why I am because I'm exhausted. Thanks for the tip and caveat about Whistle for Willie, maybe we'll check it out from the library and see how it settles!