There’s a movement underway to bring attention to the need for more multicultural children’s books and to bring more of those books into classrooms and libraries. Here are 3 reasons why it’s so important that kids have access to more multicultural books with characters as diverse as our communities.
1. See Yourself in the Pages Through Multicultural Children’s Books
There’s a magical connection that happens when we see ourselves reflected in the pages of a book. Up until 2014, the vast majority of characters in children’s books were white, in large part due to what’s known as the “publishing diversity gap.” Only 10% of children’s books featured non-white characters. That’s a startlingly low percentage when you consider that more than half of American kids are expected to identify as a non-white ethnicity by 2020.
It can be disheartening for students to read a never-ending stream of stories featuring characters they can’t relate to. In contrast, students get a boost in self-esteem when they read or hear books in which their cultures or ethnicities are represented. It’s a proud moment to see parts of your own life showcased for an attentive audience made up of your classmates.
2. See Life Through Another Person’s Eyes
Let’s face it: Kids can be self-centered. They gradually learn empathy as they grow, and it helps them have meaningful connections to others. In fact, some researchers believe empathy is the key to having a joyful life because it leads to better relationships in every aspect of our lives. Certainly, it’s key to ending destructive behaviors like bullying and cruelty.
What’s tricky about empathy is that you can’t teach it to children the same way you would teach skills like painting or riding a bike. It has to be modeled, nurtured, and inspired repeatedly over a long period of time.
Also, empathy is more than just understanding another person’s point of view. Even con men can do that for entirely selfish reasons. Empathy is actually a complex process of understanding, respecting and placing value on another person’s perspective. Kids need a multi-faceted, immersive experience in order to learn and feel these emotions. Cue the books! Children’s books are a great vehicle to this destination. They can introduce an entirely new point of view while also addressing important life topics.
3. Celebrate a More Realistic, Diverse World
When books are filled with only white characters, it creates a false impression of the world at large. It creates a sense of “otherness,” or Us vs Them. In reality, we live in ever-increasingly diverse communities.
If we want our children to truly succeed in the world, it’s essential for them to understand and celebrate diversity. In a Fast Company article on career skills that are critical for success, being able to motivate a diverse workforce is #1. A knowledge of other cultures is #2. In fact, nearly the entire list consists of being able to communicate effectively with people who are different than you and having an open mind that can adapt to their way of thinking.
#ReadYourWorld with Multicultural Children’s Book Day
January 27th of each year is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. It’s a day to “not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity but to also get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.” Language Lizard is a Proud Sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. We also offer numerous Multicultural Book Sets that celebrate diversity and teach children about different cultures.
Use #ReadYourWorld on social media, and share your love of diverse characters and multicultural stories. It’s an easy way to help get more multicultural children’s books out into the world. In 2016, Multicultural Children’s Book Day was able to reach 3.6 billion social media shares. It also trended at #2 on Twitter. Help them surpass those numbers by spreading the word!
If you participate in their eBook fundraiser, 100% of the proceeds will be used to gift multicultural books to classroom libraries. While you’re there, download your free Empathy Kit, which includes an immigration and refugee book list, classroom activities, and this colorful poster:
Comment below and tell us about your favorite multicultural children’s books are!
Photo credit for first image: copyright Language Lizard 2017
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