Books can take you to faraway lands. Or they let you dive into towns and schools like your own. Still, there are a lot of stories that aren’t getting told. Many kids never see characters that look and live like they do. Now, there may be a new chapter of diversity in children’s books!
Kids’ books have a lot of fun characters. Some heroes are animals or monsters. And others are about people like us. This is the type of book that interested the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC). That group works in Madison, Wisconsin. The CCBC found that a lot of kids’ books have white characters and white authors.
In 2008, the CCBC looked at 3,000 new children’s books in the United States. Of those stories, only 172 starred a black character. There were 98 with an Asian star and 79 showing a person from Latin America. Now, those numbers have gone up. In 2018, books about black characters jumped to 401 out of 3,617. There were also 308 books with Asian characters and 247 Latin stars!
KT Horning is the director of the CCBC. “We’ve been tracking the number of diverse books for 30 years,” she told News-O-Matic. “And for about 25, they stayed pretty much the same.” Then, the numbers went up for the past two years. “That’s a sign things may be getting better,” Horning said.
Horning explained why we need diversity in books. “It’s important for readers to see themselves in books,” she said. “It’s also important for kids to read about other kids who may not look like them.” A reader may see a character that looks different but has the same feelings. Or they may learn about a new way of living. “The more you read about people who are not like you, the better you will understand the world,” Horning said.
One way to get more diversity in books is to get more diversity in writers. From 2008 to 2018, the number of children’s books written by people of color went up. Books by black authors went from 83 books to 202. And Asian writers’ works shot up to 339 books from just 77 a decade ago. There are also more Latino authors. They include Meg Medina, a Cuban-American writer. Medina’s book Merci Suárez Changes Gears won a top award in 2019!
Still, work is needed to get more diverse children’s books. And young people can help. After all, they are the ones who will be reading these stories. “Kids can help by reading books about other kids who don’t look like them,” Horning said. “Ask your librarians, teachers, and parents for more diverse books.”
Horning added, “Kids have the power to change things with the choices they make.”
Updated April 9, 2019, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan