This weekend I attended the Missouri SCBWI conference and got to hear the amazing Connie Hsu (Roaring Brook Press) speak on the need for diversity in children’s books. She talked about growing up as a Chinese American in Alabama. As a young reader, Connie was a huge fan of the Sweet Valley Twins books. To this day she remembers which twin had a mole on her shoulder and which one was in the unicorn club. While she loved the series and devoured the books, they never provided a reflection of her Ethnic heritage. As a matter of fact she rarely saw Chinese faces in the pages of any books or magazines, and that had an impact on her self image.
Its a problem that Latino, African-American, and Asian-American children have been facing for decades. It seems like by 2015 we would have fixed the problem. But we haven’t. And shame on us!
Working as an editor Connie now has the opportunity to promote diversity in children’s books, but it’s not just up to the writers and editors to effect change. As educators we need to demand diversity in the texts and images that are presented to the children in our classrooms. What teachers say matters, and you can have an impact on the illustrations selected for books, and the stories that are purchased for your libraries.
If you are interested in helping promote diversity in children’s literature please get involved in the We Need Diverse Books Movement. It does take a village to raise a child and that village is full of people from all different backgrounds. Let’s make sure our books reflect the blessing of diversity.