I looked for just the right Valentine’s Day cards. They would be for Jenna’s students, all who are children of color. I wanted cards that would reflect them.
But they weren’t to be found.
I found cards with white kids, with superheroes, with cartoon characters, with kittens and puppies. I begrudgingly settled on a box of Minions.
I have the same trouble at Christmas when I’m looking for easy reading books to give them. While we do enjoy (and need) stories about people that are different than us, we also enjoy (and need) stories that we can relate to.
Where are the children’s books with people of color as the heroes?
There are a few. I mainly order them online to get enough each year.
And, thankfully, the number of books reflecting all of us is growing. According to recent studies, people of color were in only 9% of children’s books published twenty years ago in the U.S. But by 2016, that percentage had jumped to 22%.
Yet with demographics reflecting 38%, the numbers still lag reality.
To authors, illustrators, publishers, book buyers, and book readers, we can do better.
WaterBrook recently published this beautiful book, When God Made You, by Matthew Paul Turner.
Delightfully illustrated by David Catrow, it features a young black girl in bright settings, as the words on the page remind her how much she is loved by God.
“Out of billions of faces from cultures, all races,
people God made, from all different places,
God knew your name. Your picture is framed.
God’s family without you would not be the same.”
When we see people who look like us, mirrored as the image of God, we find the words more believable. We’re more likely to hope, to dream, to aspire to greater things.
Just ask young black girls who are being inspired by the film Hidden Figures. (Have you seen it yet? Go!) It’s based on the true story of three African-American female aerospace workers in the 1960s who were human computers.
It’s adapted from the book by Margot Lee Shetterly. (I haven’t read it yet…any of you? Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.)
We all benefit when each of us have healthy role models.
“A you who views others as sisters and brothers
and lives by three words: love one another.
A confident you, strong and brave too.
You being you is God’s dream coming true.”
Books like these are good for black kids.
But also for white kids. For Asian kids. For all kids.
Kids of all ages.
“‘Cause when God made you, all of heaven was beaming.
Over YOU, God was smiling and already dreaming.”
* * *
What’s a favorite book or movie you relate to? Please share any thoughts in the comments.
- Diversity in Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too
from Code Switch
- People of Color Accounted for 22 Percent of Children’s Books Characters in 2016
from NPR Books
- Black Women and STEM: How Hidden Figures Is Inspiring a New Generation
from Sodexo Insights
My thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of this book.
- God’s Math of Little Things
- Bigger Than My Prayer