SUMMER SUNDAYS: All Library locations will be closed on Sundays from May 26 through September 1.

Thumbnail
3 reasons you should care about diverse children’s books

3 reasons you should care about diverse children’s books

February 13, 2023

This blog was written by children’s author Charlitta Hatch to promote the National African American Read In on February 18, 2023.

As a mother of two young children, I am constantly reading all types of books to my son and daughter. They range from books on animals, trucks, and unicorns. Some of the books have only pictures and we make up our own story. Some are books with diverse characters. Some you may call boy books and others you may call girl books. If in those books, you see images of only girls cooking, then what does that tell girls? What message does that also send to boys? The images tell a story about what our children can be and also tell a story of what others can or cannot be. As an author, consultant, and parent, here are 3 things to consider when thinking about whether the books you expose your children to matter.

  1. When we can relate to the content, we become more interested in the journey that the characters will take. The journeys the characters take can also shape the journey we believe we can take.  Providing diverse and relatable reading content for children can reinforce positive self-images, principles of diversity, and introduce children to others who are different.
  2. Books are one of the tools that help children develop an awareness and recognition of diversity early in life. In 2006, a study of 36 infants showed that children develop a bias towards their own race as early as three to six months of age. In 2018, a study found that preschool-aged children were better able to understand the moral of a story and apply it to real-life situations when the story was presented with human characters rather than animal characters.
  3. In 2014 and 2018, studies showed the impact that a single storybook reading can have on a young child. For example, after hearing a story some participants would make comments such as, “I have a frisbee at home,” connecting the story to their own lives through the presence of a particular object without ever mentioning the characters within the story. It is important to have diverse authors and illustrators a part of the diverse story telling so that the store is authentic. Children connect with different components of the children’s books beyond the character’s name and race. To increase interest and ensure the content is relatable, representation at the writing and drawing tables is key.

I challenge you to reflect on the images that dominate the various forms of media, specifically children’s books. I know that representation matters, and I know that reading is fundamental. What changes can we make to forming a positive self-identity? Can we change the narrative from Black boys being known as thugs and athletes to literary scholars? Is the first step critically thinking about the children’s books we have in our home and classroom libraries?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This year, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is hosting our 3rd Annual Celebration of the National African American Read-In, for the first time in person. We will be hosting an event open to the public on Saturday February 18th, from 10am-2pm. It will be held at Sugar Creek Charter Elementary (4101 N. Tryon Street). 

Join us for workshops for all ages (registration required), live performances, traditional storytelling, a free food truck (while supplies last) and so much more.  

We hope to see you there!