As Demographics Shift, Kids’ Books Stay Stubbornly White

There’s a story on NPR about demographic shifts in the US, and how the publishing world has not been keeping up. The problem is a big one, and it affects all of us. It means that non-white children don’t feel represented in literature, which can affect engagement with texts and reading rates, the effects of which ripple through their future lives.

It also affects white children, who benefit from access to narratives other than their own. I’ve frequently referred to fiction as “empathy training.” When we read fiction, we see the world through the eyes of another person, we experience things that we cannot and do not experience in our “real” lives. This trains our brains to consider the stories and backgrounds of other people, it helps build our ability to slip into their perspective and try it on. It makes hate so much harder.

We need diversity in literature – especially in children’s literature. We need it for the people who are currently locked out, and we need it for the people who, unless they look really hard, often see only their own stories reflected back at them over and over and over again.