6.27.2013

THE DIVERSITY GAP IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS : An infographic from Lee & Low Books

http://www.leeandlow.com/images/Childrens_Book_Infographic-lg.jpg

This infographic from publisher Lee & Low Books, an independent book publisher focusing on diversity, has been making its way around the kidlit blogs and I felt the need to share it here, mostly because it, and a story that recently aired on NPR, has made me think about what I choose to read and what I see on the shelves. Elizabeth Blair's story, As Demographics Shift, Kid's Books Stay Stubbornly White featured a mother who grew up in Texas with family from Mexico and Cuba, who makes a concerted effort to assure that her daughter reads books with Latino characters in them, the kind of books she never read as a child. Explaining her efforts, she says, "I think children today are told, 'You can be anything.' But if they don't see themselves in the story, I think, as they get older, they're going to question, 'Can I really?' " As a middle class white woman, I've never had to worry about this, as a child or as a parent. The most up-in-arms I ever had a right to get was squawking about the lack of girl protagonists in middle grade fantasy novels (where girls are still most often relegated to being the sister or friend...) and thinking deeply about Gender Equality in Children's Books. I never had to worry that my kids were reading books that didn't have characters who looked like them or had the same cultural backgrounds as they did. As a bookseller working in a store that is located in a city with a Hispanic population that is nearing 50% I was thrilled to see Malin Alegria's Border Town Series, described as a Latino Sweet Valley High, but the few copies we received came and went, never to return. And, to be honest, I worried that I was being some kind of racist when I showed the Latino kids the books with Latino characters and the African-American kids the books with the African-American kids and the Asian kids the books with Asian kids. But at the same time, I realized how uncommon these books were and I wanted kids who might enjoy them to discover them before they disappeared.

I would love to hear from you on this subject. Do you choose what your kids read? Are you a parent who seeks out diversity in books for your kids? Do kids really notice that they may not be seeing themselves represented in characters in the books they are reading? Would I be a different person today if the books I read as a kid had more and stronger female characters?

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