I wanted to buy me 5 year-old niece some books for her birthday. I went to 4 downtown Chicago bookstores and was stunned when not one of them carried a book with a child of color. What the heck? A wave of emotion washed over me that this was unacceptable. I decided right then, standing in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble, to create greater diversity in children’s books.
Why do I care?
Because I want children to grow up proud—Proud of themselves, their family and their community no matter where they live in the world. The following are 7 reasons why I believe its important for all children to read books with a diversity of characters.
- Books are a powerful way for getting children to understand their family, neighborhood and the world in which they live.
- It helps a child to gain a better understanding of themselves.
- Children can learn to respect other cultural groups, and even celebrate their differences.
- Books by Black and Latino authors limit stereotype portrayals of characters and situations.
- These books point a realistic look into the lives of diverse populations; and it increases a child’s sensitivity to other ethnic groups.
- Multicultural books have been proven to have a positive development effect on children of all backgrounds.
- When a child reads a story about their own ethnic group it increases their self-esteem.
This lack of multicultural books for children is even more stunning because our country is growing more and more diverse. The U.S. Census reports that 43% of America’s children are Black, Latino or Asian. That’s over 31 million children under the age of 18. And this lack of diversity is worldwide.
In the United Kingdom just 1% of books feature a child of color. I attended the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy in 2017, where there were over 1300 exhibitors from around the world showcasing over 7,000 books and I could count the number of books with Black children with my fingers. For me it was heartbreaking because I estimate the number of Black and Latino children around the world is probably triple that in the USA. We as publishers have got to do better job of developing literature for these children. And encouraging writers from these communities to share their children’s stories with the world.
As I was walking through the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is when the reality hit me that Black and Brown children were invisible there. That was when I expanded my vision to create greater diversity in children’s books and children’s entertainment worldwide. This is the first time I’ve announced this big dream out loud and I’m publicly sharing with you this big goal in my heart. I invite you to follow my journey from dream. But, only follow if you believe big dreams are possible.