Culture includes the way we portray ourselves to the world and the way the world sees us. The United States is a varied, dynamic, interesting country that benefits from the contributions of people of all races, religions, and creeds. The sheer variety of people who live here and govern via a democracy makes us unique.
Yet, in the children's books published in the US, the majority of children portrayed are white. When children of color are depicted, the stories frequently revolve around a white person and have people of color in the background. Or, the story revolves around race issues, rather than portray a child of color having every day experiences that don't revolve around race. Described another way- stories that give the readers a "slice of life".
I touched on this topic briefly last July but many others have written more eloquently than I on this issue. I encourage you to join the conversation. Or, at least read what others have to say.
Here are some places to start:
Added 10/27: Also see Nikki Grime's blog post from today.
- Coloring Between the Lines: Reflections on Race, Culture and Children's Books by Anne Sibley O'Brien (My post is in response to this post)
- The Open Book (blog maintained by publisher Lee and Low).
- The Elephant in the Room a Publisher's Weekly blogpost by Elizebeth Bleumle
- Mitali's Fire Escape - "a safe place to chat about books between cultures"
At a minimum, I hope these blogs will make you think. Then, as a parent or teacher, examine the books you choose for your kids or students. Do they reflect the diversity of people around them? Can children of color see themselves positively portrayed within the pages of those books? (Booksellers, please also see Mitali Perkin's post for tips on selling multicultural books).
For a list of suggested titles, you can also visit Elizabeth Bluemle’s “A World Full of Color” list at LibraryThing.
Have you recently read a great children's book with a protagonist that is not Caucasian? Do you have any titles to suggest to us? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.