January 25, 2019

Multicultural Children's Book Day

        Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day.  Why?  I like the phrase “windows and mirrors.”  When children read (and probably the rest of us, too) they need to find windows through which to understand and empathize with people who are unlike them, and they need to find mirrors in which to see reflections of their own lives affirmed.  This includes axes of diversity such as race, ethnic background, [dis]abilities, language, religion, family structure, gender identity, and all sorts of other elements of culture.  (Just to clarify, I’m talking about more than one axis, not a bunch of hatchets.)  This multiculturalism can be explicit, as in a book that specifically references an abuela’s traditional cooking, for example, or it can be in the background, as a picture book in which families are shown with a wide range of skin tones despite it never being mentioned in the text.  Both modes are valuable.
        I can certainly attest that as a child I was happy enough to read about boy heroes, but I definitely also craved books with girl heroes.  Yes; it mattered.  So today is a good day to remember how much it matters that all children find themselves reflected in books, and that all children see that other people of other cultural backgrounds are also present in the world of books, where their shoes can be borrowed for a mile or so.  Here’s Charlotte’s Library’s excellent list of Reviews of Multicultural Speculative Fiction for Kids and Teens, and I’m sure a quick search would get you lots of other recommendations, especially for picture books.  So let’s celebrate the wonderful books that are already out, and keep pushing for more!

[Picture: The Family Who Lived in a Shoe, rubber block print by AEGN, 2003.]

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