The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has found that fewer than 14% of children’s books have storylines with multicultural characters. Research has shown that children begin to form racial bias in early years. By adding diversity to their bookshelves, parents can help their children feel more comfortable in the multicultural worldand learn about cultures that may be different than theirs. The following tips can help you add diversity to your child’s bookshelves!
1. Seek out diverse stories. When looking for new books for your children, seek out books with diverse stories and characters. Look for books that both address diversity (Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox) as well as books that feature diverse characters (Julie Black Belt by Oliver Chin). The internet can be another resource for finding diverse titles. GoodReads, for example, has a list of over 200 multicultural books for elementary and middle schoolers.
2. Use books as windows – and mirrors. Books can roughly be divided into two categories: mirrors and windows. Books that are mirrors accurately reflect back a child’s own culture, family, and lifestyle. Window books allow children to catch a glimpse of the lives of unfamiliar people and places. Including books from both categories help indirectly teach children that people from diverse groups are not that different from themselves.
3. Start a discussion. Reading books that feature diverse characters can lead to discussions about race, gender, culture, and more. If your child asks a question you don’t have an answer to, don’t shy away. Instead, vow to learn more together and revisit it in the future. Likewise, use resources in the community as a way to learn more about the cultures you read about. Look for kid-friendly free and low-cost cultural events that tie in with the books you read.
Books are a powerful way to teach our children about the wonderful, rich world we live in. Filling their shelves with books that accurately portray multicultural characters is just one of many ways to help little hearts and minds learn and grow! The Anti-Defamation League has a guide to assessing and choosing children’s books to help parents find and create diverse book collections.