Question. How many of the books your children read have black protagonists? And I do mean protagonists, not just the happy friend or side kick.
It’s not a trick question. Like most people I’m sure the answer is slim to none. Believe me mine is too!
In fact a recent study by Arts Council England and the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education proved that point. Just 1% of children’s books have a BAME main character…How can this be the case in 2018?!
How sad that children still aren’t being exposed to diversity in literature. In the same way we want them to know that princesses don’t always need to be rescued by a man, they need to know that these princesses can have brown skin and dark, textured hair.
A lot of people may focus on the fact that it’s important for children to see themselves reflected in books to feel validated, I’d say that self validation and worth should start at home. Yes children should feel like the wider world accepts them, but parents of BAME children should also instill in them the confidence to know that a book, film, tv show or magazine’s content should not and will not define their worth or status.
But it is important for them to know that someone who looks like them is worthy of being the main character and doesn’t always have to be pushed to the sidelines.
What’s just as important is that Caucasian children should be seeing black and ethnic minority children as inventors, detectives, leaders and yes, royalty. They need to know that ‘good guys’ aren’t always the white, blonde haired ones. They need to know that black people can be more than the funny/cool/woke sidekick!
It’s 2018 damn it. We shouldn’t still be seeing this, but alas we are.
Lack of exposure to diverse content is what leads to lack of awareness and appreciation for other cultures. It is what leads to stereotypes and pigeonholes. It is what can fuel white privilege.
Battling inequalities shouldn’t just be the task of those who are marginalised or disadvantaged. It’s just as important for those in ‘privileged’ positions to pursue more equality, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them feel.
So I’m not just calling for more black authors, illustrators or publishers to put diverse characters in their books. Their white counterparts should be doing the same.
We, as parents, should all be demanding it.
So, before the weekend is over, I want you all to do one thing. Can you pop into your local bookshop or library and ask them which books they have with diverse characters. Hey, you could even buy or borrow one. Because once demand increases I’m sure the publishers will cotton on.
This is an old, but good list of diverse books for children and teens. You can check it out here.
I’d love to get your recommendations too!
(Photo from PragmaticMom)