This post is part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. For more details and to link up your own book review, see the bottom of this post.
I’m a librarian and lifelong lover of children’s literature. But it took becoming a parent for me to realize just how white most children’s bookshelves really are.
Our family, like many, was formed through adoption, and like a growing number of households, we are a transracial family. As my husband and I waited to bring Sprout home, we did all the things everyone does to prepare – buying clothes, toys, a crib, and of course loads of children’s books. We got books from friends and family, from coworkers and neighbors. Many of these books were favorites of the gift-givers, and the love and care with which they were selected spoke to us.
But the whiteness, the sheer lack of diversity of many of the characters, did not.
We knew our family was unique, distinct, and we were fine with that. But we also knew that for our son, growing up in a family where his face and features didn’t match that of mom and dad, it would be important for him to see himself mirrored in the world around him. So I put my librarian skills to work and began seeking out books that would broaden and enrich Sprout’s world — books with characters who resembled him, and those that didn’t, with storylines from around the globe and themes that celebrated various cultures. I took classes in multicultural children’s literature and wrote papers on the benefits of embracing diversity in library collections. I discovered the benefits of diverse reads not only to mirror the experience for children of color, but also to increase empathy and understanding in white children as well.
What I found through my research is shocking, but true — while thousands of children’s books are published each year in the United States alone, the percentage of books by and about people of color remains frighteningly low (for specifics, check out the work of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which publishes a yearly report on the state of diversity in children’s books).
So, what’s a concerned parent to do? Well, the first step is obvious – make a concerted effort to diversify your children’s bookshelves. Seek out events like this one, where multicultural literature is celebrated and examples of the genre brought into the spotlight. Follow bloggers like those involved with Multicultural Kid Blogs, to give your kids a global perspective and find stories from around the globe. And above all vote for diversity in children’s literature – support publishers like our amazing sponsors, with your dollars and with your library checkouts. Because one thing is clear: the world’s a wild, wonderful and diverse place, and our children’s bookshelves should definitely be the same.
Mary Kinser is a librarian and the mother of a gorgeous four-year-old boy from Ethiopia, lovingly nicknamed Sprout. She writes about diversity and adoption in children’s literature at her blog Sprout’s Bookshelf. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter (@SproutsBkshelf), and pinning all things kidlit at Pinterest.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. To combat this problem, Mia of Pragmatic Mom and Valarie of Jump Into A Book/Audrey Press created Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.
We are so pleased to be participating in this worthwhile project. Many of our member blogs are also taking part (see list). For all of the book reviews (and more!) follow the Multicultural Books for Kids board on Pinterest. For more details on this great event, visit Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature.
We are grateful to our wonderful sponsors, who made this event possible:
Participating Member Blogs
For more reviews of great multicultural books, visit the wonderful blogs below:
A Bilingual Baby · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Chasing The Donkey · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes · The Good Long Road · InCulture Parent · Kid World Citizen · Mama Smiles · Multicultural Kids Blog · Open Wide The World · Spanish Playground