Submitted by Marina Jordan
My hair is too poofy… My family is too different… Why can’t I just be like everyone else? These phrases are said all across our melting pot of a country by children who feel like they are other. Parents cry out for diversity on the big screens and in entertainment, but why not start at your local library? The read woke campaign started by Cicely Lewis a Gwinnett County Public School teacher highlighting the overlooked diverse characters in literature. These are just a few stories highlighting the diversity that is found in children’s literature.
Children’s literature is one of the most diverse forms of media today. There are authors, many of whom are parents writing their child’s story for other children just like theirs. Teaching children that they don’t have to conform to fit in, in fact just the opposite that the things that make them special should be celebrated. Story lines about diversity and nontraditional families line the shelves of your local library’s children’s section.
Books like Honeysmoke by Monique Fields, a real-life parent of bi-racial daughters, tells the story of a little girl faced with figuring out what color she is when compared to her one race elementary school friend group. Chocolate Me!, by actor and father Taye Diggs tells the story of a wonderfully darker skinned little boy who was picked on for his complexion but thanks to his mother learned to love his brown skin.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown tells the story of a girl who is Purivian and Scottish who chose to make herself small to fit in, but in the end learns she is perfect the way she is. Princess Hair written by Sheree Miller empowers girls to love and celebrate their kinky, curly hair at a sleepover. Beyond physicality Silvia Lopez’s Just Right Family and We Chose You by Tony Dungy tells the stories of adopted children from different perspectives. Finally authors like Rachael MacFarlane have given us books like Harrison Dwight, Ballerina and Knight and Eleanor Wyatt, Princess and Pirate that challenge traditional gender norms.
The books mentioned are just the cusp of what amazing, inclusive children’s books are out there. In today’s age our kids no longer have to search for themselves in imagery that doesn’t quite fit on the big screen. Books like these not only help your child identify themselves, but it helps everyone to understand people who they think they have nothing in common with. Every child’s story has a chance to be told and if you find that your story isn’t out there, maybe you’re the one to write it!