Representation of People of Color in Children’s Books

Image via Mother Jones

At a young age, children are like sponges, understanding a lot more than we give them credit for. Given this fact, it is critical for them to be exposed to how others think and look differently than them through racial diversity in children’s books.

In 2015, people in the book and publishing world noticed that literature—specifically children’s literature—lacked diversity. A lack of diversity caused the publishing industry to think about our changing world and its norms and that our books should be changing with it. From this thinking, foundations like We Need Diverse Books began advocating to change the direction of the publishing industry.

When walking through a bookstore in 2021, I can definitely see an increase in books depicting people of color and books written by people of color. But still, it’s not enough. People of color’s voices need to be heard, and I believe that it is more important than ever for that to happen in the 21st century. This is one of the most racially and culturally diverse times in our world’s history; I believe one of the best ways to embrace diversity in thought, culture, and unique experiences is to share stories, either well-known or not, from different perspectives. Exposing the population to purely cultural and diverse perspectives will help us as a community become culturally aware and more accepting and understanding of those around us.

As a little brown girl, I loved reading. I remember having so much fun with the inventive characters in my favorite books. But there was one thing that I kept noticing—all of these beloved characters were white, none of them looked like me. I never stopped reading, but I always kept this thought in the back of my mind. As I got older, I continued to notice that the majority of the characters in my books were white. At this age, I was beginning to understand that I was different from my friends, which made me feel othered.

When I felt like this, I wanted to turn to the safety of my books, but not being able to see myself in any of these stories made me feel more left out like I didn’t belong in this predominantly white world. As a child, I always understood that I was different, and I was able to identify that I did not look like any of the characters in my books. Growing up as an avid reader and being exposed to new and more complex books has made me realize that my beloved children’s books only acknowledged one viewpoint of the story.