This is a guest post from Abiola Bello, publishing entrepreneur, and prize-winning author of the Emily Knight I am…. series (Affiliate Link). She is explaining to us why diversity matters to our kids today, and how you can step up and choose diverse books for your children or in your school to make a REAL difference.
This post includes Amazon affiliate links.
Diversity Matters. These two words, especially recently, have popped up on every media outlet but the problem is that diversity has always mattered.
1. Every child should see themselves reflected in the books they read
Everyone, especially children, need to see themselves reflected in books and not just in ‘typical’ situations, for example an Asian girl shouldn’t only see books just about wearing a hijab or a Black boy shouldn’t see themselves in gangs. It makes children believe that they are just one thing and anything outside of that isn’t a correct representation of them. Children need to see themselves represented in all books. They need to see Black superheroes, Asian princesses, wherever your imagination can take you, authors and publishers have a duty to make sure the books they create are diverse.
2. Positive messaging & empowerment
It’s so important that we show different races in positive scenarios such as bestselling children’s books like Emily Knight or Baller Boys. Emily Knight is actually a series of books from A. Bello for middle grade/young teen readers, Emily Knight I am Becoming… The third book was released in Sept 2020 by Hashtag Press.
Emily Knight I am…becoming
This is the third book in a series following Emily Knight. The books are aimed at younger teens, and follow Emily. Emily is a special warrior child with amazing powers, and she has to learn to control those powers, despite not really enjoying being a warrior sometimes.
A Bello, who wrote the series, is from Hackney in London and determine to give children characters they can relate to more easily.
Children should have access to books that are not focused on racial issues but everyday issues such as friendship, growing up, and family relationships; in which the children just happen to be from an ethnic background. It’s important that children learn that there are no limitations to what they can achieve. Hurdles shouldn’t be put in the place of children who are eager to learn.
The most popular children’s book is Harry Potter but there is a major lack of representation in those stories. Yet this is a series that even 20 years after it was first published is still being recommended time after time to children. Harry Potter is a great series but is it a book that will teach your child about diversity? Unfortunately it won’t.
3. Our Why diversity matters to our kids Post, Should Help You, Learn more, experience more, understand better
The best way to learn about diversity is to read more books by Black and Asian writers. Learn about other cultures and experiences. Open up your world beyond the small area you currently inhabit. There are so many exciting cultures, experiences, stories out there to learn about! There are fantastic books from picture books up to Young Adult and all in between – it’s just a case of finding them! Go to your local bookstore and ask them to recommend you some. And if they can’t, tell that bookstore to step up!
Check your child’s school library too. Schools have so much influence over young people and if you don’t see a range of books then speak up! It is the school’s duty to be diverse, inclusive and representative. Parents also have a responsibility to their child to find these books to read at home. Expanding the types of books that children read can help them expand their knowledge and open their eyes to the wider world.
4. Build connections with more people from different backgrounds
In 2020, it should be easier than ever for a Black child to find multiple books with Black people on the cover, but that’s not the case. If children read diverse books, as they get older, they will be able to connect more with others from different backgrounds.
Where exactly do you find these books? The big chains like Waterstones are getting better but they definitely don’t move fast enough. You will probably only find 2 or 3 titles that would be relevant and again it’s boxing in what is accessible. Independent bookshops are a step up because they will try to be more inclusive but again they will only take a certain amount of titles, they’re limited by space, and there are so many brilliant books out there that don’t make it in to the shop window.
If there is a diverse book that you read and enjoyed, see who published it and go onto the publisher’s website. There you will be able to see all the books they have published or what is due to come out. There will be a range of amazing books from authors who don’t get highlighted enough by bookshops or in the media.
Do you have a local library? Librarians know about new books, themes and what’s suitable for what age group. If they don’t have anything suitable then request a book as they can order more in.
Also, do check out The Diverse Book Awards (www.thediversebookawards.co.uk) as they have announced the best diverse books for children and Young Adults that were published in 2019. That’s a good place to start as there is already a curated list for you. How many of the books have you read?
We really hope that you like this article on diversity and why it is important in Children’s books; do check out some of the other relevant articles we have on the site.
Diversity related articles on KiddyCharts
Inclusive picture books for kids #31DaysOfLearning
Some ideas for picture books encouraging inclusivity and diversity.
12 tips to engage reluctant readers: Baller Boys reading activity
Baller Boys is an excellent example of a book that shows diverse characters, and also helps reluctant readers to connect with books.
Encouraging inclusivity in kids books: Pride activity sheets from Freeda the Frog
Freeda the Frog is a fabulous series - do check it out and do some colouring at the same time too.
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