As I was reading the CBC Diversity article “Here I am” by Brian Pinkney I couldn’t help but think about my reluctance to read “boy” books when I was younger. I only wanted to read books with girl protagonists or mostly female characters at least. I didn’t think that I would find boy adventures interesting or a boy’s perspective relevant, but I’m sure you can imagine how many awesome books I was missing out on because my prejudice.
Diversity isn’t only an issue about color. It’s about sex, culture, disabilities, class, and even religion. Kid lit is the perfect place to start exposing children to lifestyles that differ from their own. It is the responsibility of librarians, teachers, and parents to employ diversity into the books that they buy and read to children. I think that Pinkney’s tips are a great way to get kids interested in different kinds of books than they are comfortable with:
- Cover Conversations: Before even opening a book, engage a child in a discussion about its cover by saying, “Wow, look at that boy on the front. He’s got drumsticks in his hand. What do you think this story is about?” And then inviting the reader open the book to find out more.
- Make it Personal: Ask a kid, “What are some of the things in this story that are similar to your own life, family, school, dreams, plans, etc.?
- Teachers Teach: Insist that your child’s teacher or school librarian always, under all circumstances, include books during story times and in classroom libraries that include people of color. Most folks are well-intentioned, but sometimes forget.
- Sail Away: Let a book’s story drive a child’s interest, rather than the color of its characters. Invite kids to create their own adventures based on the book’s themes.