Diverse Kid Lit!

By Summer Lopez

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It’s January, season of the MLK holiday, so when my son’s Kindergarten teacher announced the class would focus on learning about diversity I was keen to be a classroom reader.

Diverse children’s literature is a priority and passion — our immediate family is Mexican-American, by birth or by luck. At home we’ve got a collection of books about diversity that provoke constant opportunities to understand empathy, compassion and justice.

Defining diversity when collecting and cataloging stories is the ultimate and probably earliest lesson for a child’s perception; it is an indelible meeting of narratives both inside and outside their experience.

Jackie Robinson nor Helen Keller’s bios aren’t on our “diversity” shelf, both sit alongside bios of Jim Henson and Lucille Ball. Maya Angelou’s poetry for children kicks it next to Walt Whitman’s selected poems for youth.

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On the other hand, Moses and Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride share a spot with Looking at Lincoln and Abe Lincoln’s Dream, and later chronicles of segregation, like The Bus Ride that Changed History. Suffragettes are filed between founding fathers.

Among these titles are also critiques; may I recommend Howard Zinn for kids? Or:

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Bilingual fiction rests with all other fiction, same with I Am Jazz — which ironically feels true to that specific, autobiographical account of a transgender child.

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Diversity is a unique, informed, and evolving choice for my son’s library and I often wonder how other families catalog “diverse” stories. Or if they do. Here’s why.

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I’m horrified to read a book like Henry’s Freedom Box to my young son, to describe chaining, whipping, auctioning and far worse atrocities. Until I remember Henry, the real boy who inspired and made this story necessary to tell, was just as young as my son. And that Henry’s Freedom Box was written exactly for his age group.

Here are some additional “diverse” titles we read and share time and again.

Families, Families, Families!
By Suzanne Lang

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Golden Domes and Silver Laterns: A Muslim Book of Colors
By Hena Khan

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Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos
By Susan Middleton Elya

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Of Thee I Sing
By Barack Obama

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A is for Activist and Counting on Community
By
Innosanto Nagara

Ladder to the Moon
By Maya Soetoro-Ng

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Summer Lopez is a writer living in California. Politics, entertainment, and memoir are equal parts her subject matter. She also publishes We Are Forty, a zine for Generation X, and Lost in a Book, a kid lit review.