For decades, children’s books have failed to represent diverse characters, communities, and storylines on their pages. Historically, it has been more common to find books with animals or objects as the main character, leaving generations of diverse young readers excluded from mainstream media. While progress for representative children’s literature has been slow, few publishers are making sharing diverse stories their primary goal.
A 2022 report by WordRated noted a 23% decrease in diverse children’s book characters since 2020, with a 31% decrease in children’s bestsellers by Black authors. Less than 13% of bestselling children’s books were about Black or African characters, and Black or African authors wrote less than 8% of New York Times’ bestsellers. However, the overarching lack of representation in characters does not lessen the importance of sharing diverse stories.
Data from Scholastic shows that reading diverse stories at a young age is essential to early childhood education. By reading diverse books, children can see themselves and their communities from a larger lens, lending compassion, empathy, and understanding to their cultural experiences and history. Furthermore, diverse books act as doorways to other cultures, encouraging young readers to explore communities other than their own through the stories they read.
To reach more children, we have partnered with Barbershop Books, a Black-founded, NY-based nonprofit that inspires Black boys and other vulnerable children to read for fun through child-centered, culturally responsive, and community-based programming and content. The Barbershop Books E-Library features more than 70 fun storytime videos and over 30 diverse, independently published e-books. By partnering with Black and Brown authors and independent publishers, such as Young Authors Publishing, the Barbershop Books E-Library invites children, caregivers, and early childhood educators to enjoy engaging stories from underrepresented voices including youth. Head to the E-library and enjoy YA-P titles such as Trevon’s Globe-Trotting Adventures, Game Over, and What If No One Hears Me?
Make diversifying your young reader’s bookshelf a part of your regular routine. Help them shape their perception of the world by digesting stories that reflect the various cultures the world has to offer. While there’s still much change needed from the publishing industry, we’ll continue to do our part in putting diverse stories at the forefront of our conversations.