Diversity in books. I talk about it all the time, but why?
Well, it's about inclusion. What does it mean to be included? Doesn't it give you a sense of fulfillment and confidence in yourself if someone invites you to participate with them? Have you ever been that kid- the one who didn't receive an invitation to a classmate's party? How would that make you feel to be left out?
That's precisely the feeling that people of color have had with books, especially with children's books. It wasn't until recently that there was a major push to create and distribute books that represented cultures from around the world. Now, it's becoming a fad to add characters of color because many authors are seeing the need when it's always been apparent for people of color.
I'm African-American and our culture overall has often been limited to family scrapbooking and a love of soul food. Our culture has been lost with name changes, poor record keeping, and familial displacement from slavery. The only books with a black girl on the cover I can remember from my childhood was the "Addy Series" from the American Girl company.
Addy was a character raised during the Civil War period. Books about African-Americans have historically been based on slave narratives and escaping hardships. They were sad, often limited in pictures and filled with somber tales. Our kids are fortunate because they are growing up in a time when kid literature is changing and becoming more inclusive. Also, they are not only "African-American", they are African from their paternal side. Their paternal ancestry is Ethiopian and Ethiopia is a country rich in culture, language, and amazing tradition.
For me, creating diverse books is about creating characters that represent my kids. I want them to look at the books they read and see dark skin, natural hair that's worn in afros and braids, and the kids have smiles on their faces. I want them to see books and think, "Wow! She looks just like me!" I want them to see happy, beautiful children who teach them to be kind and encouraging people in an often discouraging world.
Why should you care about diverse books? It's simple. Our country is a diverse place, our WORLD is a diverse place. The books that our kids read influence them just as much as the shows they watch, the media that's in their faces, and their kids they spend their time around. Kids books give children a visual of what the world around them looks like around them.
When they go to school they are surrounded by children from ethnic backgrounds who speak different languages and are immersed in widely different cultures at home. Exposing your kids to these backgrounds early empowers them with knowledge of the world. It helps them understand the culture unique to their peers who speak a variety of languages and celebrate holidays that reflect the religions they practice at home. Reading diverse books can teach kids the about geography and regions of the world they've never explored. Heck, reading about the world can even encourage your child to be world travelers and see the all the places they've learned about one day.
Books are just tools parents can use to educate their kids in an engaging way. I found that reading books with positive messages can open up dialogues between parents and children that is different from lecturing to them or instructing them. The reason why I encourage reading diverse books is for everyone-including parents-to have a greater understanding of the colorful world we live in.
I'm sure we all can agree that this world can use a lot more love and understanding. That's why I've started the initiative to share 1000 days of diverse books. 1000 days of diverse books will give families amazing book ideas to order for their homes or check out from the library. Each book will have characters that depict uniqueness or promote cultural understanding of different ethnicities.
If we can learn about each other, we can learn to love each other.
Do you read diverse books to your kids at home? What are some of your favorites? Share with me below!
Help us encourage this movement by using the hashtag #1000daysofiversebooks and follow @acolebooks to see these awesome titles everyday for the next 994 days!