While walking down the street the other day, I passed a little girl walking with her dad. The dad was belting out “Let it Go” (from Frozen, of course…and let me interject that it is completely adorable what little ones can get their dads to do). But the thing that struck me was that this little girl and her father were black… and I realized that there is not one black character in that movie. And there is absolutely no reason for that fictional town to not be filled with diverse characters. This little girl, like my little girl, and so many other little girls and boys, obviously loves that movie. Why should she not see herself represented in movies she loves?
Now, this isn’t a new concept. This is something that anyone who falls out of the realm of whatever ‘privilege’ we want to choose deals with daily. Fortunately, there is a grassroots movement happening in the writing, publishing and library world right now. And it affects all of us because, unlike the characters in Frozen, we do live in a world that is filled with diverse characters.
I bring you, #WeNeedDiverseBooks
The We Need Diverse Books tumblr was “created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.
We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.
In order to accomplish our mission, we reach out to individuals and groups involved in many levels of children’s publishing—including (but not limited to) publishers, authors, distributors, booksellers, librarians, educators, parents, and students.” (http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/tagged/Mission)
Now in my research for diverse books, I found an interesting debate over an idea that has been coined “casual diversity.” Basically, it boils down to whether we should be focusing on creating books that present diverse characters naturally and, as the term implies, treat diversity in a casual manner; or if we need to explicitly address racism and differences in children’s book. (If you are interested, I have included some links below to articles addressing the discussion).++
For me, I believe we need both kinds of books. And more of them!! (Check out this discussion on the Lee and Low blog entitled, “Why Hasn’t the Number of Mulitcultural Books Increased in Eighteen Years“). That being said, I wanted to create a booklist that DID focus on characters of differing backgrounds presented naturally, because I feel those books are a little harder to find for the parent who just wants a simple bedtime story, or the preschool teacher who wants relatable books that represent the children sitting around their storytime circle.
Below I have created just that: a list of books featuring characters of color, characters who fall into the LGBTQIA category, or people with a characteristic that otherwise places them in the ‘minority.’ This is just a start, though. Check out the additional booklists and websites with tons of resources on incorporating more diverse literature into your library (also listed below). Also, keep in mind that many of the authors listed below have many multicultural books beyond what I have listed.
Books Featuring Diverse Characters:
Bigmama’s and Shortcut by Donald Crews
Feast For 10, We Have a Baby and Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell
I Am So Brave and I Know a Lot by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Sara Gillingham
Have You Seen My Cat and Today is Monday by Eric Carle
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis
Whose Knees Are These and Whose Toes Are Those by Jabari Asim
Buzz by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine (For more picturebooks featuring Asian-American characters, check out this Amazon list)
Preschool to School-Aged:
Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman
The Dunderheads by Paul Fleishman
Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka
Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia
Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee by Nancy Payz, and Susan L. Roth
Peeny Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Anything by Walter Dean Myers
Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine
Other People’s Booklists (because I have only just scratched the surface…):
Seven Diverse Board Books for Babies and Toddlers (from the Ink and Pen blog)
Top Board Books For Youngest Readers (from the American Indians in Children’s Literature website)
Books for Babies about Adoption, Race and Family
Goodreads’ Best Multicultural Books for Children
Goodreads’ Best Children’s Books with Disability /Accessibility Themes
10 Great Multicultural Books from Flavorwire
50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) – this list is by age, so very helpful!!
Goodreads’ Diversity in Young Adult and Middle Grade
Awesome Online Booklists, Websites and Resources:
- World Full of Color Database
- We Need Diverse Book tumblr and We Need Diverse Book website
- American Indians in Children’s Literature
- Lee and Low Books (an awesome independant book publisher that specializes in diversity, whose mission is “to publish contemporary diverse stories that all children could enjoy.”)
- I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read? blog – They have a great list of books with LGBTQIA characters/themes
- Diversity in YA – blog that is constantly updated with the newest in diverse young adult literature, and has links to other resources/blogs
Go forth now and fill your child’s library with diverse books!! Enjoy!
Other Interesting Articles on Children, Diversity and Racism:
“Language May Be Dominant Marker for Young Children” by William Harms from UChicago News
“Children are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race” by Erin N. Winkler, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
++”Casual Diversity” debate: