Every kid has one. Whether it’s a dude in a cape or a dad. Children’s books have always been filled with heroes: those people we admire and emulate.
But what happens when our heroes don’t look like us?
I touched on the topic of diversity in this previous post, where I noted the lack of children’s books in which the main character is a person of color. The need for diverse books is two-fold, as articulated here (see bottom of post for a link to the full article):
“You can have egalitarian ideals, you can consciously want to be egalitarian, but implicit bias and racial anxiety can still trip you up…Diverse kids’ literature gives children of color a chance to see themselves as heroes, which is vital. But smart, thoughtful books with non-white protagonists can also give white children a chance to see black people and people of color as something other than anxiety-producing others or stereotypes.”
– Noah Berlatsky
I so appreciate that my girls – who are still so little and as of yet unconscious of race as a social construct – are reading about heroes who look different from them. It is my hope and prayer that they view a boy like this as a friend and fellow adventurer:
At the same time, I am conscious of the fact that my girls will never know a life in which they don’t see themselves represented in the books they read. For the sake of all our children, this misrepresentation needs to change. (And it is, slowly, especially through the efforts of independent publishers.)
This month, one of my Barefoot events I’m most excited about is a book drive for a local tutoring center that works with refugee youth who were recently resettled in our city. As they navigate a brand new culture and school system, I believe a small and simple gesture of welcome is to offer them stories of heroes. Heroes of all different skin colors and abilities and families and places of origin. Brave heroes just like them.
Articles for Further Reading
Interested in Hosting a Book Drive for a School or Organization?
I’d love to help! Contact me here.