Please welcome teacher and author Garrett Carter who is my guest blogger today. He writes about the need for more diversity in chidren’s books.
Planting the Seed Now: A Call for Diverse Children’s Literature from a Teacher and Author
Along with spring and summer flowers, numerous articles concerning the lack of diversity in children’s literature have sprung up as the year has progressed. Not a new phenomenon, there has always been a lack of cultural diversity for children to experience through reading. As the melting pot in America simmers to a boil, so does the demand for an inclusion of diversity in children’s literature. Simply put; stakeholders are asking and demanding change — now! Here, I’ll explain why I feel this is an important message in my eyes as both a teacher and author.
Through a Teacher’s Eyes
I want the best for my students. This desire is at the heart of how I approach teaching. The best includes opening my students’ eyes to the world around them. Not just allowing them to see themselves (mirrors), but allowing them to explore the world of others (windows). I teach middle school language arts, and one novel we read this year was The Circuit by Francisco Jiménez. The story centers on the experiences of a migrant child and my students were enriched by this novel; I was too. They asked thought-provoking questions, made excellent points, debated issues the novel raised, and found they had commonalities with those whose lives are very different than their own. Several of my students commented that it’s not a book they would have read on their own, but that they were glad we read it and felt that they learned more about the world. Emerging readers need to experience this as well. We need to enrich the world of young children by showing them how diverse this world really is; and despite this diversity, how we still share many things in common.
Through an Author’s Eyes
Reading and writing are fundamental and require responsibility. Both can open doors and expand imaginations beyond boundaries. When children read and write about characters and people who only look like them, it’s a disservice because it’s limiting their imaginations and perspectives of the world. Authors and publishers have a responsibility to provide diversity in children’s literature. We have to acknowledge that many of our readers live in homogeneous communities and only experience their single environment in way that carries meaning. Their perceptions of people they don’t see are often limited to what they observe on television, movies, the Internet, etc. We have an obligation to offer readers a peek into the lives of others. By providing quality, culturally diverse literature, we can show young readers the experiences of others in a meaningful, relevant, and responsible way. There are certain feelings in life that are experienced across cultural boundaries: happiness, sadness, hope, love, etc. If we can expose children to this idea at a young age, we can begin to create empathy and, perhaps, a better world.
Maya Angelou once said, “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” As adults, we’ve hopefully learned the benefits of living in a diverse world; let’s teach this to our children. We’ve hopefully received the gift of mirrors and windows; let’s give them to our children.
Garrett Carter is author of I Want to Be an Athlete and an Entrepreneur (Coby’s Athlete and Career Series, Book 2), a #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s Children’s Multicultural Category. For more information, visit GarrettCarterBooks.com or Garrett Carter on Facebook.
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Images from Edward Trimnell and First Book.