Imagine going to the grocery store and finding absolutely nothing that fits your nutritional needs or suits your tastebuds…
That’s what faces kids and young people who aren’t white, straight, and middle class when they search the shelves of their library, classroom, and bookstore.
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center studied diversity in US children’s books recently, noting that fewer than 225 books of the 3,200 children’s books received by the CCBC in 2013 were written or illustrated by persons who were African/African-American, American Indian, Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American, or Latino; just over 200 of these 3,200 books contained important characters from any of these four heritage groups. (Note: the US population is not 93% white).
And while stories based on non-traditional families and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transexual/questioning teens are becoming more common, just try finding the titles on The Rainbow Project Book List in a conservative community. (Note: people of all orientations and families of all types live everywhere)
When I was growing up, I never found books reflecting our Air Force family’s many moves; most military brats and other third culture kids will tell you the same. And how could “lived here my whole life” folks understand what our “make friends quick and be ready to leave any moment” lifestyle was like in those days before cheap long-distance calls and email?
Even if you are white or straight or middle class, ask yourself – does anyone want to read the same story in a different binding, over and over again? Isn’t exploring “being someone else” a big reason that we read anyway? Would people travel across the nation or around the world if they just wanted to see themselves duplicated in those surrounding them?
Diverse books open all of the world to us – other neighborhoods, other traditions, other worries and joys and everyday everything. I hope you’ve seen #weneeddiversebooks trending on Twitter lately and can tweet more reasons, adding to this important conversation.
This weekend, I’m doing the 48 Hour Book Challenge, reading diverse books and writing about them for 48 hours – you’ll see many of these books in future BooksYALove recommendations.
What books featuring diverse characters, families, and cultures have you enjoyed lately? Share in the comments, please!