Thursday, August 1, 2013

Diversity in Kids' Books: Twins and Island Hunters

Name a children's book, any book. Or pick up the last book your kid read.  What race were the kids in the book (assuming they were not animals or aliens or fish)?  If your kids' books are like mine, most likely those characters were White.  Maybe, by some small chance, they were Asian or Black; by a smaller chance, they were Hispanic or Native American.  Now think - what was the last book your child read that had main characters of color?  Not the side-kick friend, but the main character on the cover.  While you think, continue to read.

The diversity - or lack of - in children's books
We all like to see and read about people that look like us. Whether "looks like" means by gender or race, ability or disability, culture or heritage. It helps to validate us as who we are. It proves that we are important.  It allows us to say, "hey, I'm not the only one."  For our children, it says, "you, too, are beautiful and belong in this world."  And aside from all of that, it's fun to see and read about other people who are just like us.  My kids love "Little Bill" on TV; although the older ones may groan when my daughter turns it on, they still sit and watch it.  Its one of the few TV shows, animated at that, that features little kids that look like them and the grand-dad looks like their grand-dad. It's fun to see your own life reflected in stories.

So it is with books. And that's why I get excited when I see children's books that represent the diverse culture of our world. We have books about Black, Korean, Latino, and Aleutian children on our shelves, along with White children.

Now I've found a couple more.
Twindollicious by Natasha Danna
Twin-doll-icious by Natasha Danna is the story of twin girls who love dressing alike.  It has bright, cute pictures and younger elementary level writing.  I gave it to my 8-year old to read and for her review. She thought it was funny and a good story.  Her summary: it was about twin sisters who liked to dress alike until a new girl came to school and made fun of them. Then they didn't dress alike and everything went wrong.  The new girl lost the class guinea pig and the twins helped her find it and then they were all friends.  From a parent perspective, it emphasized how the twins were the same in that they looked and dressed alike, but were unique in their different strengths and personalities. The message I liked was knowing who you are and not letting other people tell you who you should be.  It wasn't a story that focused on race, but about growing up, and the girls happened to be brown.

The Island Hunters series by N.E. Walford
The Island Hunters by N.E. Walford is a series of chapter books I thought my son would enjoy.  First, I was impressed that it was written and illustrated by a mother of five boys!  Beyond that, the books are all boyhood adventure. There's pirates and maps and islands and brothers fussing with each other and plotting together to find treasures and running from the bad guys.  Walford includes cultural hints and historical references as the boys wander through the Caribbean and the island of Jamaica.  My son commented that there were some "vocabulary" words in the writing; he knew them, but I think it slowed him down a little bit.  If the writing is too old for your kid, it would be a fun read-together book, if your son will allow it.


1 comment:

punkinmomma said...

For younger readers the Katie Woo series is really good!