Children's Books Are Still Really, Really White


When a biracial family simply eating Cheerios results in the psychotic break of legions of racists, it’s hard to ignore the lack of diversity in all sorts of media. The near invisibility of anyone other than white people is pervasive, but let’s start at the very beginning — children’s books.

For example, according to a report by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, only three percent of children’s books are by or about Latinos — even though nearly a quarter of all public school children today are Latino.

NPR reports:

When kids are presented with bookshelves that unbalanced, parents can have a powerful influence. Take 8-year-old Havana Machado, who likes Dr. Seuss and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. At her mothers’ insistence, Havana also has lots of books featuring strong Latinas, like Josefina and Marisol from the American Girl Doll books. She says she likes these characters because, with their long, dark hair and olive skin, they look a lot like her.

It just makes sense to cater to this growing demographic, right? Well, maybe, but it’s taking publishers awhile to catch on, citing concerns like finances and demand. However, recent data from the Census Bureau indicates that nearly half of today’s children under five years old are non-white — so those concerns (real or imagined) can’t last much longer.

Again, it’s about investing in the importance of all kids. Just as both boys and girls need to see more girls in leadership positions, children of all ethnicities and races need role models of all ethnicities and races. That breeds normalcy and acceptance, and it’s good for everybody. (Even racists!)

“But you do have to look,” [Havana’s mother, Melinda Machado] explains. “I think children today are told, ‘You can be anything.’ But if they don’t see themselves in the story, I think, as they get older, they’re going to question, ‘Can I really?’


San Jose Library/Flickr

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