Children love books and storytelling. As parents, it’s a go-to activity. In my home, my almost-3 year old reads on her own even though she doesn’t know how to read. She loves looking at the pictures and will read for 30 minutes all by herself! I love watching her eyes scan the page, go back and forth, revisit pages, and narrate to me what she thinks is happening and I make sure that she sees herself well represented when she’s doing that. It’s important that she has a positive sense of self and one of the strategies to achieving that includes seeing children and people that look like her in books.
In my journey to compile a comprehensive list of books featuring diverse characters for babies and children up to 5 years old(ish), I’ve learned several things. Those books exist and there’s been a rise in the publishing of such books in the last two years. I also learned that there is still a dire need for characters of color. There is a need for characters of color with physical challenges, characters of color dealing with issues of gender and identity, Native characters, Asian characters, and characters of color exploring religion, other than Muslims. An organization facing this challenge head on is WeNeedDiverseBooks. There are so many resources on their webpage for parents and educators wanting to know more about diverse books. The image below provides a visual representation of the issue at hand:
Why does this representation matter? I’ve known adults that believe that their kids don’t see color or are not concerned about issues of racism and bias. The reality is that children in this age group are fully aware of skin color and difference. Their understanding of it hasn’t been completely tainted by our society’s perverse view on it yet. And that’s the good news! At this age, we can make sure children see the differences and celebrate them. We can normalize difference for them. Later, when society tries to tell them that difference is bad and that some skin colors are better than others, they’ll (hopefully) know better.
Here’s a list of 95 books featuring characters of color doing ordinary things, enjoying life, exploring their worlds, and stepping into themselves. All of these are picture books appropriate for children ages 0-5.
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