I’m currently enrolled in a Children’s Material class, in which we read and discuss books intended for kids up to the age of 7. Something we talk about a lot is representations of diversity, or lack thereof, in children’s books. Are publisher’s afraid that people won’t buy books that feature families of different races, ethnicities, creeds, or lifestyles? Why are some of the most frequently challenged children’s books about same-sex couples? Why do we consistently see children’s stories illustrated with anthropomorphic animals instead of racially diverse humans?
As my home and native land celebrates 149 years of confederation today, I’m thinking a lot about what makes Canada, well, Canada. And, quite frankly, it’s that we offer our citizens liberties and rights and justices that are supposed to protect and celebrate diversity. So why are we squashing it? We should be exposing children to stories and illustrations that reflect different communities, families and realities because different books resonate with different people.
Marley Dias, an 11-year-old girl from New Jersey, believes in this idea. She wanted to know why all the books she read in school featured “white boys and their dogs.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center sampled 3000-3500 books in 2014, of which just 179 were about black people, 112 about Asians, 66 about Latinos, and 36 about American Indians. Only roughly 13% of the collection featured diverse characters. That’s gross. So, Marley Dias took it upon herself to collect #1000BlackGirlBooks to send to her mother’s homeland of Jamaica. Why? Because we’re all sick to death of reading books about white boys and their dogs.