Please read this article from Rumaan Alam. What he has to say is essential.
We Don’t Only Need More Diverse Books. We Need More Diverse Books Like The Snowy Day.
by Rumaan Alam (published by Slate, August 2, 2016)
We need diverse books to be sure, but those must be part of a literature that reflects our reality, books in which little black boys push one another on the swings, in which little black girls daydream about working in the zoo, in which kids of every color do what kids of every color do every day: tromp through the woods, obsess about trucks, love their parents, refuse to eat dinner. We need more books in which our kids are simply themselves, and in which that is enough.
It’s impossible for me to support this argument enough. I can’t like this article enough or share it widely enough. This is incredibly important.
My wife and I talk about having children. We’re both cis-het white people of western European descent, who have lived our entire lives in the central portion of the United States. That’s our cultural milieu and it will be the cultural milieu of our children (at least until they’re old enough to decide for themselves where they want to live).
Our kids are going to have The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats on their shelves. They’re going to have Corduroy by Don Freeman and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña.
Because I want our kids to learn that they have far more in common with people of different ethnicities, different nationalities, different cultures, than they have differences.
Because I want our kids to live in a world where it’s normal for them to see characters of all races, nationalities, cultures, and identities in the stories they read, hear, and see.
Because I want our kids to learn how to personally relate to and empathize with people who come from different backgrounds.
Because I want them to know that people from different backgrounds experience the world, too.
Because I want them to value diversity as a hallmark of a healthy and robust culture.
Because these are damn good children’s books no matter what our race or cultural background may be.
The most powerful way for kids to learn these lessons is through engaging and fun storytelling. The history lessons and biographies and critical examinations of culture and society will come in due course.
But kids just want to hear good stories about interesting characters doing fun things. The same kinds of fun things our kids do themselves.
All nations, all races, all cultures have stories to tell. All such stories are worth telling and I want our kids to explore this world of human storytelling as widely as possible.
Taken together, these stories tell us all what it means to be human—in the fullness of our variety and in our quotidian sameness. I want our kids to understand that.
Such understanding starts with stories about kids being kids.