Tuesday, December 9, 2014

why is there such a lack of diversity in children's literature

I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but a lot of the books out there that we read to our children are pretty problematic in regards to diversity and it's starting to REALLY bother me.

I want Liam to read stories of same-sex families, adopted families, bi-racial families, different cultural identities and practices and well... add a kazillion more isms and ologies and so forth to the list and you'll start to get an idea of all the things I'm looking for in my kid's literature.

Because right now we have 2, yes only 2, books geared towards toddlers (in other words a board book that he can't tear apart) that hint at a reality that is different than an all white majority. One measly Thomas the Train book that has 1 black passenger on the train (one book out of a set of four, with one passenger) and one Polar Bear, Polar Bear, which is mostly animals until the very end when a bunch of kids wearing masks have different skin tones.

Ironically, I think that many authors/illustrators try to get around the diversity question by using animals instead of humans.

And I think that this is pretty damn unacceptable. And that it doesn't reflect the reality he is growing up in at all. On our street alone, he experiences more diversity than what is shown in his children's literature. I can't help but wonder, what is the impact of this? What narrative does it tell him, and other children for that matter, if white stories are the only ones that matter enough to get air time?

In fact, after scrolling through 10 pages of the Amazon site of baby books, board books, etc, I only found 2 stories that had a bi-racial narrative that seemed to be featured in the tale:

What about all the other stories out there? What about the babies of my friends who are not white, blonde and blue-eyed like my son? What does it mean for them that they don't seem themselves reflected back to them in constructive ways? Why does it require a special search query to find alternative (but very modern, every day) narratives for children?

I don't know about you, but this really upsets me. So if you have some great suggestions of publishers or books that will teach my son about different lifestyles, cultures, skin tones, etc, etc, etc, please let me know because I'm now on a mission to diversify my son's library so that we are already starting a dialogue on privilege, reality, and diversity in our home, right from the get go.

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