Oct. 30, 2019
They Simply Don't See Themselves In Their Classroom & Library Books, Why?
I just received the 2018 Diversity in Children's Books Graphic today. What does this graphic tell me about the classroom and library literature children of color are exposed to daily. Well, the most important thing it signifies is the absence of self in the literature they are exposed to. While white children and animals continue to dominate the inclusion factor with a total of 77% exposure. Children of color continue to be slighted in character representation still. While the percentage of 10% of black children representation is far better than the almost 0% that I grew up in my literacy experience. It is still a bleak representation for our black children in 2018. With this nation's population, almost 50% of people of color and certainly more children of color enrolled in our elementary schools today. The fact that animals have more exposure than children of color is disheartening.
I lay this at the feet of the publishers of children's books for being so blatantly racist in how the select authorship teams for children's books. However, I also lay this at the feet of the parents of children of color who don't actively read aloud daily to their children. For if publishers knew that parents of color were actively involved in the literacy experiences of their children. These publishers would certainly be very cognizant of that fact and would be aggressively seeking authors to provide literature that represented children of color. The reality is that 77% of the children's books that are published are gear towards white children. Because animal stories being multiracial are most likely still tilted in interest to white children. The animals and insects children see in the urban areas rats, sparrows, roaches, waterbugs, and other pests rarely show up as characters in children's books.
This graphic shows the importance of why reading aloud and sharing reading experiences with your children daily is critical in your child's social and cultural growth. You don't have to go to the bookstore and buy children's books if funds are tight. That is why cities have public libraries. However, most bookstores have programs that encourage parents to interact with their kids and children's books for free. They understand that today's emergent reader is tomorrow's bookstore customer. If you don't see children's books that fairly represent your child, letter campaigns or email campaigns to the major publishing houses can have a major impact. However, if your adult voice isn't heard more than likely these percentages will remain as they look now.
Pick up a book dammit. Really. Pick up a goddamn book and read it aloud to your child. I hate to sound harsh but it is simple as that. If you're engaged in your child's acquisition of literacy. It will not only be a rewarding experience for both you and your child but it will become a gift that will be forever returning as your child grows into adulthood. Even if you are facing physical, emotional, and economic hardships. You must involve yourself in your children's literacy experiences. That includes speaking to your child about the world around them. It includes exposing your child to the unfamiliar. It also means modeling good behavior by having books and magazines in your homes. It means reading aloud to your children and having your children read aloud to you. If you have difficulty reading then find a way to improve your skills along with your children. If you are illiterate task yourself to become literate, it's that simple. Pick up a book today and if you have the time join The Blackman's Read Aloud Hour on Facebook Live and hear a good reader read aloud and share that session with your children.
The only way we are going to be represented in our children's books is if we demand it. However, that demand is meaningless if we don't engage with our children in literacy every day.