Can more multicultural children’s literature = less racism?

Let’s start with the good news first.

It looks like there was a slight uptick in the number of books by and about people of color in 2014, specifically – Africans and African Americans, Asians/Asian Pacific Americans and Latinos.   This is according to statistics gathered by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

This progress is definitely a step in the right direction and the findings highlight that small, independently owned publishers have played a significant role in making this a priority.  I’m sure higher profile efforts like #WeNeedDiverseBooks have also gone a long way in promoting the cause.

Though I’m not sure if the quantitative evidence exists, there’s a bunch of us who believe that children deserve and benefit from greater exposure to the big, beautiful, ridiculously DIVERSE world that they were brought into.  In creating our first book on dances of India as part of the Little Loka Series, we also personally believe that its never too early to start sharing and celebrating the world around us.

Yet, to the not-so-fun news, as recent events that scream intolerance continue to grow and buzz around us, it is clear that we have a ways to go.  Sadly, because the publishing world as a whole still responds more to what makes them money, than what is right, I think this journey to meaningfully increase diversity in children books and heck, books overall, will be more of a series of marathons.

Can more multicultural children’s literature out there play a role in reducing racism out there?  I think it could definitely help.  For many of us, the words, the illustrations, the stories from books we enjoyed as children stay rooted within us.  It’s hard for me to forget that “…a person’s a person no matter how small,” thanks to Horton the elephant and Dr. Seuss.  As a kid, if you remember exploring and enjoying a different country, culture or ethnicity through a book, would you be less inclined to hate on it later?  I don’t know the answer but I feel like it’s definitely a maybe, which is less likely to translate into hurtful acts of ignorance in these times.

At the end of the day, it’s even more unlikely that people that want to judge and discriminate and teach the next generation the same, will ever expose themselves to multicultural children’s literature.

But as we work on our second book, our hope is that if the choir (as in preaching to the choir 🙂 that supports and enjoys diverse children’s books grows enough, there will be more room for discussion and allowance, and less and less room for hate.

Here’s to hoping…

Posted on: March 12, 2015, by : littleloka