#RepresentationMatters

Reading forges connections and inspires empathy and compassion. It humanizes issues that can feel abstract to kids like adoption, divorce, disability, religious freedom, LGBTQ rights, racial issues, and injustice. Children’s books are important for teaching essential skills like literacy and language development, and they also have the ability to teach kids about the world around them. Books mirror the world around us, but only for some of us. The majority of children’s books focus primarily on white characters. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) found that only about 10% of children’s books published in 2013 were about people of color. When kids are limited to books that primarily focus on only white families all children suffer. The lack of representation in children’s books leaves children of color stuck with a limited selection of books about characters they can relate to. It also leaves white children woefully unaware of the reality of the world around them.

Opening a book and finding characters that are similar to you and your family is one of the purest emotional connections a person can have, it helps you realize you are not alone in your struggles. Finding books that children can see themselves reflected in is a challenge. Kids are more likely to be interested in reading if they have books that show families that are like theirs. According to We Need Diverse Books 90 percent of educators believe that children will become more enthusiastic readers if they have books that reflect their lives.

Diverse families deserve books that reflect their situations, and further diverse children deserve stories where they get to be the main character rather than a sidekick. Too often the solution to diversifying our media is to throw in a token person of color and pretend that it is adequate representation for all minority groups. Diversity goes beyond race, extending to include the LGBTQ community, religious communities, and people with disabilities, and these identities often intersect. Finding books that reflect these situations can help kids who come from diverse families understand themselves better and connect reading with a positive self-image. Forging a connection to a character can spark a love of reading that lasts kids their entire lives.

Reading is a great way to introduce kids to social issues. Beyond seeing themselves in stories it is important for kids to see people that are different from themselves. Characters that come from diverse backgrounds, and families, are important to give a face to issues kids will encounter in their lives and in the lives of people they will meet. Spend time reading with your kids and discuss how the characters relate to their lives and the lives of others. Be sure to check out Caribu’s featured book for Pride Month, A Family Forever, on our app.

A Family Forever by Leandro Barreto

Have book suggestions to make our bookshop more diverse? Please email hello@caribu.co.

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Written by Rachel Gambach: Intern @Caribu, editor & contributor for Caribu’s blog and student at UCF.

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