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Diverse Kid Lit

I’ve posted about this before, but the best way to educate your kids about diversity and inclusion as well as systemic racism is to broaden their experiences not only in the community but also through media, including the books you and they read. This means not only talking and reading about issues like racism and white privilege but also reading and watching and listening to materials that contain diverse main characters in everyday stories, adventures stories, stories of struggle and triumph, stories of invention, you name it. For example, check out this wonderful new STEM bio title, Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13, written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk.

White children have plenty of representation in toys, games, books, movies, cartoons, etc. They see themselves in myriad situations. Not only do Black children and kids from other marginalized groups need to see themselves represented more widely; non-marginalized kids need to see them, too. Why? To step outside themselves and to build empathy. For every book you buy or borrow to read about racism and diversity right, for every serious book, read two to three fun, magical, adventurous, etc., books that feature diverse main characters.

I’m putting some links here because these folks have already developed some fantastic book lists so there’s no need for me to re-create them. Some of the items on the lists repeat but each list contains something the others don’t. Some are more picture book focused while others, including the top link, contain titles for several age groups. Some links also feature additional resources for discussing race and diversity issues with your kids. Please take a few moments and check them out:

Several publishers are committed to diversity in kid lit. Lantana Publishing has beautiful books that address diversity and inclusion as well as social justice and environmental themes. Admittedly, I did just sign a contract with them for my first picture book, but it was their books and their dedication that led me to submit in the first place. Please visit them, if you haven’t already: Diversity and inclusion titles from Lantana.

Lee & Low is another wonderful publisher devoted to diversity. Check out their Multicultural and Diverse Books for Preschool, Grade 1, and Grade 2. They have titles for other age groups and grouped by theme, too.

For issues books for younger audiences, a Kids Book About has wonderful titles. They’re sparse in illustration but big on message, including A Kids Book About Racism, by Jelani Memory.

Versify is a new imprint started by Kwame Alexander with some wonderful new titles for all age groups. You can find a list of other imprints and independent publishers who have adopted diversity and inclusion in their mission here. It’s not exhaustive but it’s worth browsing to learn about some places and books you might not know.

If you’re familiar with Margaret Wise Brown but not Ezra Jack Keats, then you should really fix that. Check out Ezra’s Books from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

One of my kids’ favorite all-time sing-along picture books is This Jazz Man, written by Karen Erhardt and illustrated by R.G. Roth.

Another wonderful book featuring diverse families is Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender. It’s not #ownvoices but it’s a beautiful book and easy to sing and share. Never too young.

Finally, for adults, here’s a great list of anti-racist literature for you to get started: Anti-Racist Books and Resources for Our Readers from Penguin. I especially recommend Stamped, The New Jim Crow, and Between the World and Me. I just started reading How to Be an Anti-Racist by Dr. Ibram X Kendi.

But don’t stop there. Read the non-issues books, too. Read the adventure and love and funny and quirky stories by Black authors. There are so many.

  • Check out this list from Penguin Random House.

  • And this one from TED.

  • How about fantasy novels by Black authors?

  • Mysteries?

  • Something funny?

Yes, some are more issues-oriented books, and most fiction stories involve conflict and pain, but

If you want to support Black-owned independent bookstores (in the States) right now, you can find a number of directories online. They and other indie bookstores need sales more than ever. I found these two lists to be the most complete and easy to navigate, but you can find a variety of other directories, including some with descriptions, by searching online.

  • from Publisher’s Weekly

  • from Refinery 29, organized by state

You can also find a variety of resources on diversity in the publishing industry at The Brown Bookshelf, including a recording of their recent KidLit4Black Lives Rally online.

(from June 8, 2020)

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