An open world begins with an open mind. An open mind begins with reading a wide range of literature, but this is where we are failing our children and the world.
A recent Mother Jones article points out that roughly 80 percent of the children’s book world—authors and illustrators, editors, execs, marketers, and reviewers—is Anglo.This uncomfortable truth lays bare for all of us the fact that we are not doing all we can and should to prepare our children for a diverse world nor are we building on work already done to move us in that direction. We negate our progress. We much change this!
Within five years, more than half of America’s children and teenagers will have at least one nonwhite parent. But when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked at 3,200 children’s books published in the United States last year, it found that only 14 percent had black, Latino, Asian, or Native American main characters. Meanwhile, industry data collected by publisher Lee & Low and others suggest that roughly 80 percent of the children’s book world—authors and illustrators, editors, execs, marketers, and reviewers—is white, like me. – Dashka Slater, Mother Jones, 9/9/2016
When we read literary fiction we enhance our ability to gauge the emotions of others. It is human empathy. If Anglo and male children whose literary life is filled with stories about Anglo children and male children we reinforce the problem of lack of diversity. We raise Anglo children and boys who become Anglo adults who do not gain the ability to understand the perspectives of people who don’t look like them and don’t share their color, ethnicity and/or gender. They become adults who have no regard for the culture and lives of people who do not look like them. This is an ability that is crucial in a world that is increasingly diverse. Our world is getting smaller and more heterogeneous every day.
The Effect of Children’s Literature
Chinese American author Grace Lin recently spoke to this in a TEDx Talk, using the example of how a school librarian effectively used children’s literathave no regard for the culture and lives of people who do not look like them. Theyure to stop children from bullying an Asian classmate. The solution was the reading of Lin’s adventure story Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, featuring a Chinese girl named Minli.
In an increasingly heterogeneous world we need to write, put our financial and physical and psychological resources behind publishing and promoting and purchasing books by authors of color and women that feature children of color and girls. These books must be at book fairs, in book stores, at book signings and in book reviews. We must stop nurturing the false notion in every generation that “Anglo” and “male” rules the world. It only causes us problems in our schools, neighborhoods, universities, workplaces and governments. We have a bigger world world than Anglo and male. Our future as human beings depends on constantly facilitating an open world built on open minds.
Lori Leak Travels To Paris
I have written a children’s book, Lori Leak Travel To Paris. It features a marvelous female protagonist, an intelligent, adventurous, curious African-American girl named Lori Leak who travels to Paris with her family and experiences French culture. Now that it is written, my illustrator, Kristen Palana (Palm d’Or award winner for Best Animated Short Feature Film in 2014) are seeking to promote it at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. We are using a crowdfunding campaign to gather support and we are already looking to the next book in the series, Lori Leak Travels to Copenhagen.
You are invited to contribute to our Los Angeles Times Festival of Books campaign and in this way empower children of color and girls as well as increase diversity in our world.