I was raised in a home where it was prided to be “colorblind.” Instead of acknowledging other’s differences, I was taught to ignore them and love everyone the same. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be taught to love all, but being taught that everyone the same is actually not being respectful. There are differences between all of us, and the experiences I have had as a white child are vastly different than the experiences of a black child. It’s important to acknowledge and teach our children that.
Unfortunately, life is not fair and opportunities are not equal for all. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a documented fact. It has become very important for me to teach my sons that there are other races, cultures, and religious out there. I need them to see the differences in others, so that they can know when they may need to amplify a voice or a cause.
There is not a lot of diversity in our day-to-day lives living in Iowa. I try to expose my kids, but I also don’t want it to be voyeuristic. I want it to be authentic. In the pursuit of trying to ensure that they are getting views into the world that would not happen otherwise, I have been developing their bookshelves to both highlight other cultures, races, and religions, but also have books that have a person or child of color as the lead character. I don’t want my sons to only see themselves in books, but to see others as well.
This started with board books. We knew that our children could not get much from the theme itself. They would, however, get exposure from pictures. So we made sure that these books highlighted diverse characters. These are some of our favorite board books that have highlighted diversity:
1. Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora
This beloved classic came to a board book format, and I was so excited. This book features a lead character that is black. My son loves seeing the story about peekaboo play and gets excited to see who or what is going to come next on the following page.
2. One Love by Cedella Marley
This book is set to the lyrics of Bob Marley’s “One Love”. It centers around a black girl and her neighborhood. It has beautiful illustrations and my son loves to hear me sing to the book. He often will get up from my lap and start dancing and clapping as we read the book.
3. Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
This book is full of everyday baby activities. However, they show babies of many different backgrounds engaging in these activities. My son loves to look at all of the differences that the babies have. He also loves to act out some of the activities that the babies engage in.
4. My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith
This story reads like a long poem with gorgeous pictures full of color. The story is about a young indigenous girl who talks about all of the things she loves and make her happy. It’s able to keep the attention of both of my kids. They really love the bright colors and pointing out the different items.
5. A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
This little book is one that will grow with your kiddos. Obviously my 17 month old does not understand a lot of the themes of the book, but he loves looking at the pictures. It shows pictures about themes like activism, LGBTQ+, and civil rights. It highlights historical figures such as Malcolm X and MLK Jr. My 3.5 year old has started to ask questions about the difference people in the pictures. It’s been a great way to open that topic to him.
These are just a couple of our favorites, but there are so many more great books out there highlighting diversity and people of color as the lead characters. I will say, however, that there still are not enough. The publishing world is slow to come to realization that these books need to be published for all children. They fail to realize that race in books should not be made a niche thing. It’s important to make sure that there are many representations, regardless of perceived “demand.” It is my sincere hope that when our children have children, there will be equal representation in literature for all ages.
Do you have any of these books?
What do you look for in a book selection for your children?
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