Truths to Reckon With Before You Seek Out ‘Diverse’ Children’s Books
Fellow white parents, I’m talking to you
Over the past week, I’ve heard from countless white parents like me who are ready to talk to their kids about racism. This suggests that many have been avoiding the discussion for far too long.
I am an educator and loud advocate for racially conscious reading. I believe that books are a great place to start in helping kids learn about our biases, internalized beliefs, and role in inequitable systems. But it’s not enough to buy books with some “diverse” faces on the cover and call your work done. If you’re ready to talk to your kids about racism, whether they’re two or 20, you need to first assess what you have already taught your children about race and people of color. Here’s how to do that work.
Reflect on your own biases
If you need to diversify your library because you have just a small handful of books featuring children of color — or none at all — you have, intentionally or not, already sent your child a message about which stories and storytellers are valuable and worth listening to. There are tons of books about children of color, so if nearly none have landed on your shelves, your patterns may warrant some personal reflection about the reasons behind your choices. Recognizing a need to change and sharing that lesson with your child isn’t about shame — instead, it shows them the importance of ongoing reflection and growth. You’re modeling vulnerability.
Ask yourself if you’re using ‘diverse’ to mean more than just ‘nonwhite’
Diverse means a group with multiple identities represented. Identify what’s missing in your library and explicitly name what you are looking for, and be ready to use real language about race with your child. “I am looking for children’s books with black and brown protagonists.” “Yes, this character is African American, and they have brown skin.” When we say “diverse” instead of naming racial identities, we teach our children that race is a bad word.