Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All white world of children's books continues

From NPR:
"When it comes to diversity, children's books are sorely lacking; instead of presenting a representative range of  faces, they're overwhelmingly white. How bad is the disconnect? A report by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that only 3 percent of children's books are by or about Latinos — even though nearly a quarter of all public school children today are Latino."

The article also mentions that a young Latina reader likes multicultural books because they feature characters "  ... with their long, dark hair and olive skin, they look a lot like her."  The article glosses over the point that this is not a true  description of all Latinas, a population which has a great deal of diversity. Works by author/illustrators  such as  Eric VelasquezAmelia Lau Carling, Yuyi and  Magaly Morales show that this standard description is plainly not the case.

To read the rest of the article, which has similar findings for books about other ethnic groups, see

However, , the situation described in this article  has been with us for decades.
( image from http://www.amazon.com/White-Childrens-African-American-Literature/dp/0865434778)

In 1995, Frances Smith Foster in her article " Since the Sixties" in th The all-white world of children's books and African American children's literature , bemoaned the fact that  "...since the eighties, the stream of books for children by African -Americans has slowed to a trickle.   Many books are out of print and new titles are few and far between. Only about 1% of children's books published in the first half of the 1980s focus upon African-Americans and many of these are not by African Americans ( p.42) ."

The book in which this essay appears, The all-white world of children's books and African American children's literature edited by Osayimwense Osa. (Africa World Press, c1995) also reprints the original Larrick  article from the Saturday Review of Books. The other  essays examine several aspects of the  representations of diversity in children's literature.( Guarini Library PS153 .N5 A399 1995)

( image from http://www.amazon.com/Free-Within-Ourselves-Development-Literature/dp/0325071357/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372174815&sr=1-3&keywords=free+within+ourselves)

 In 2007, in her book, Free within ourselves : the development of African American children's literature,(Portsmouth, NH : Heinemann, c2007), Rudine Sims Bishop voiced a similar opinion.

 "In spite of major increases in the number of children's books about Black people since 1965,  African American children's literature continues to exist as a very small subset of the estimated 5000 new children's books published each year in the United States (p.xii)...The highest proportion of books about people of African descent produced by Black writers and artists was 65 percent, achieved only once in 2000 with 96 of 147 books. in recent years it has ranged between 40 percent and 60 percent  (p.xiii)."
(Guarini Library- PS153 .N5 B526 2007b 2007 )

[ Please note there has been controversy about how these and other books are marketed in bookstores   See http://nkjemisin.com/2010/05/dont-put-my-book-in-the-african-american-section/; http://gawker.com/5628781/ohio-wal+marts-have-carefully-segregated-book-departments]

Librarians have tried to promote multicultural literature with the

But the situation and articles like these show that there is very little change.
When will the publishers get on the bandwagon and realize that they are missing an increasing population of Americans, and that most Americans (of any ethnicity) will view multicultural literature as reflecting their reality?