Have you ever had an issue you really care about but you feel like nobody is listening? Well, odds are a child is facing similar difficulties that their peers might not understand. Diverse protagonists/themes in children’s and young adult literature plays an important role in not only making the reader feel validated and inspired, but also normalizes and dismantles the othering that people of different races, sexualities, and abilities face. It’s estimated that about 80% of children’s book characters are white, and that obviously does not match-up with the U.S. population let alone the school-age population. Many people are also marginalized by popular media, portraying members of other races predominantly as criminals and perpetuating negative stereotypes about women, LGBT folk, and it goes on and on. Children are only being robbed of the truth when this is their first, or so far only, experience with people a bit different than them. The problem is many schools facing budget cuts and other situations cannot afford to provide children with important books they may love.
Children’s books have always played the role of helping children safely learn things about the world around them, and it is only fitting that all kids should be able to learn about all of the different types of people they’re going to meet and how to be understanding and respectful with them. These books are not odd ones out either, quality books with new diverse characters are winning awards and getting recognition for the quality of their content. Donating a book (like through Reading is Resistance) is a great way of sharing your thoughts and side of the story to an open mind. We all find role models in popular culture whether they’re from books, movies, or TV. For a child a strong protagonist similar to them can be part of what motivates them to succeed to the best of their ability and opportunity.
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