The Lack of Diversity in Children’s Books
There is a serious and real dearth of children’s books that feature children of color.
We started Loving Lion Books to address the lack of diversity in children’s literature. For us, the lack of diversity was deeply personal. As parents and citizens of the world, we were dismayed to see how few books feature people of color doing everyday wonderful things. We knew, instinctively, that representation matters, but we did a lot of research to best understand the problem and help create a solution.
In a nutshell, here’s what we learned after pouring over research paper after research paper about why representation is important:
- Formation of personal racial identity that is full and real and healthy requires exposure to healthy and beautiful people who look like you and your parents and the people you love.
- White children are saturated with this exposure - in advertisements, catalogs, dolls, movies, television, in art work, and in books.
- Children of color do not have nearly enough of this exposure. In fact, many of the images we all see of people of color are negative.
- White race formation is about seeing people who don't look like you doing healthy, beautiful things so that your white identity becomes aware of the absence of these positive images and this reality. You can then be a white ally and help change the reality.
- The more people of all shades and ethnicities are exposed to images of people of all shades and ethnicities doing beautiful things the more we will see the beauty in ourselves and in others.
- There needs to be more venues for lovingly and naturally creating these exposures for all kids, and books are a critical way to do just that.
The most recent US Census showed that more and more children born in the U.S. are people of color. In fact, over half (50.4%) of children under 1 in the US are people of color.
We also learned that the percentage of people of color being featured in children’s books has remained stubbornly unchanged. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center, from the University of Wisconsin, has been tracing data about diversity in children’s literature since 1985. In each of the 31 years, their annual statistics have shown nearly the same level of gross underrepresentation of characters of color in literature.
People of all shades should have always been represented in books and in all media, and we should not wait any longer. We created Loving Lion Books to address the problem head on - by creating books that feature and celebrate kids and families of all shades.
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