Diversity in Literature

I will be honest…the thought of diversifying children’s literature has never crossed my mind. Because of this, I don’t really have strong opinions about it just yet, but I loved having the chance to learn more about it. This week I read two articles that discussed the topic at hand.

The first article I read was by author and illustrator Brian Pinkney. Growing up as an African American child in the 60s, Pinkney felt like he had few book characters that he could identify with. So, he made it his mission to change that. He has published multiple children’s books that center around African American characters. It is unfortunate that we lack the diversity, however I think that people like Pinkney have helped to ignite change for the better. Today, there are awards for books that are about African American characters, Hispanic characters, and people with disabilities. There have been improvements made for the better, no doubt.

The second article that talked about ‘whitewashing’ children’s book covers. A teacher should her students multiple books, all that had an ethnically diverse character cast. Surprisingly, these books did not showcase the diversity on their covers. This fact upset me a little bit—books are supposed to be a wonderful getaway from the world! Yet, here we are reminded of the bottom dollar, do what sells marketing tactic. While designing then cover with little diversity may open the book up to one audience, is it really worth losing a whole other audience? If the absence of diversity in literature is so pressing, shouldn’t showcasing it on the cover of your book be seen as a good thing? Unfortunately, the priorities here are a wee bit skewed…

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6 thoughts on “Diversity in Literature

  1. Has he thought of diversifying children’s literature never crossed your mind because you haven’t noticed a lack of diversity and therefor don’t think it’s a problem? Because when I was reading Pinkney’s article I was thinking “in my experience a lack of diversity in my reading has never been a problem- that I’ve noticed.” It’s true that most books have a specific target audience, but I don’t know about this “whitewashing” concept. Maybe you could linkup the article to your post? I would love to read more about it.

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  2. When I was in grade school I didn’t put any thought into it either. It wasn’t until I lived in Phoenix, AZ and my kids were in school that I began to understand. The school they attended had a very culturally diverse student population and the importance for diverse literature became more evident. Fortunately for children today there are more books available for diverse audiences, but as you mentioned, the “whitewashing” of book covers is a sad reminder that there is still work to be done.

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  3. I agree that we are making some progress on diversifying books with awards and diverse casts and such. It is so sad that even the covers of books aren’t as colorful as they should be! Hopefully this can be for the better in the future.

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