Turning Pages: How and why there could be more diversity in kids books
Snippet of article by Jane Sullivan below. Full article available here.
How many millions of kids around the world at this moment are reading book after book about white families, white kids, and thinking "That's not my mummy" or "That's not me and my friends"? It could be a serious impediment not only to a child's literacy but to their whole sense of identity. And it's astonishing that nobody has really tackled this very persistent problem until recent years.
Belatedly, things are changing. We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organisation of book lovers that sprang up in the US a few years ago and is now pushing for changes in the publishing industry to reflect and honour the lives of all young people, not just a privileged few. Like Kids' Own Publishing, it has spread to Australia.
A new awareness has led to a spate of "issues" books, with young heroes who are asylum seekers, and so on; some of these books are excellent. But it's like Hollywood and the white Oscars: the real breakthrough will come when everyone takes it totally for granted that the heroes of the story just happen to be Indigenous children, or children of African or Asian background.
Statistics on the lack of diversity in children's books are scarce, but some from the US suggest it's still a highly pervasive phenomenon. The Cooperative Children's Book Centre at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has done research that reveals that although people of colour make up about 37 per cent of the US population, the total number of children's books with multicultural content has been static at about 10 per cent since 1994.