There’s a lot to unpack about diversity in children’s books. While there are many wonderful stories that celebrate the diversity of human experience; in 2018 there is still a disproportion of books with white protagonists, a tendency to tell a “single story” about marginalized groups, a distortion of historical facts, and a need for authenticity with too few authors and illustrators who create stories in their own voices being recognized and published. Diverse books are not all created equal !
Listed below are several key resources to help you to navigate the world of diverse books. Resist the temptation to jump to sites with specific booklists where the thinking has been done for you. Instead, read, first, for self-reflection and to gain perspective on diversity in children’s books. Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s groundbreaking essay “Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors” is an excellent place to begin.
• Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors by Rudine Sims Bishop (1990) – In her seminal essay Dr. Sims Bishop gave us a powerful metaphor that speaks to the importance of sharing multicultural literature with children.
“Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation . . . .” Rudine Sims Bishop
• We Stories: Raising Big-Hearted Kids – This organization uses the power of children’s literature to help start and strengthen family conversations about race and racism. Begun in St. Louis in response to events in Ferguson, The Family Learning Program introduces parents and their children, from birth to age 7, to compelling works of children’s literature that feature diverse characters, and provides supportive resources and materials to promote conversation, change and hope.
• We Need Diverse Books – a non-profit, grassroots organization that advocates for essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. We Need Diverse Books recently launched Our Story – a book discovery tool that celebrates diversity and strives to include a wide array of titles with diverse content and by creators from marginalized communities.
• We Don’t Only Need More Diverse Books. We Need More Diverse Books Like The Snowy Day By Rumaan Alam, Author – Alam stresses the importance of protecting the joy of reading for all children with relatable stories of kids of every color just being kids. “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, is cited as one example of quality literature where a child of color is the hero of an everyday story. This article inspired a crowd-sourced Booklist – Kids of Color Being Themselves – Because That’s Enough.
• American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) – provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, school curriculum, popular culture, and society. AICL offers a yearly list of Best Books vetted by Native readers.
• See What We See – Social Justice Books.org – A project of Teaching for Change, SocialJusticeBooks.org was developed in 2017 to identify and promote the best multicultural and social justice children’s books, as well as articles and books for educators.
• Latinxs in Kid Lit – Exploring the world of Latinx literature with reviews of picture books and early readers, middle grades and young adult books.
• The Book Nook – Family Equality Council – books that positively represent LGBTQ families for early elementary, middles grades, young adults and parents.
• Where to find “diverse” children’s books – An ever growing list of resources including booklists, reviews, recommendations, and articles from the EmbraceRace community. EmbraceRace is a multiracial community of people supporting each other to help nurture kids who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race.