Why is diversity in books important?
Our world is more connected than ever, and it’s important that our children’s bookshelves act as a window to the diverse world around them. Research has shown that when children see their own worldview reflected in books, they gain self-confidence, and that when they see experiences that differ from their own, they develop curiosity and empathy. (Bishop, 1990).
So, is it time to take stock of your bookshelf? We’ve included a few tips to help you on your journey to create a diverse bookshelf for your child.
Creating a diverse bookshelf: Top Tips for Parents
Remember that diversity doesn’t just mean skin colour
A truly diverse bookshelf should be a window to the world around us – so when we say ‘diverse books’ we of course are talking about race, but we’re also talking about books that depict characters of different ages, genders, ethnicities, abilities and sexual orientation. Books that show people practicing different religions, speaking different languages, coming from varied socio-economic circumstances, or having non-traditional family structures e.g., blended families.
Start by completing a self-audit
It’s important to first see where you are, to determine where you need to go. A great way to do this is by completing a book self-audit. Inspired by the process @zaras_play_tribe followed on Instagram, start by pulling out all your children’s books and separating them into piles based on the type of content – one pile for human characters, one pile for animal characters, and one pile for other (e.g., alphabet, numbers, shapes, non-human non-fiction).
Go through the human character pile and separate again based on whether you believe the content or characters have some kind of diversity represented.
Finally, go through this pile and again separate out any books that just happen to have a diverse character in them, but who is not the protagonist or who is not really relevant to the book…how many books do you have left?
Actively and consciously seek out diverse books
Although many small publishers are making great strides in their depiction of diversity and inclusion in their children’s books, it is still far more difficult to find books incorporating a diverse representation of characters – particularly with regards to the main character. When seeking out a diverse book, ask yourself the following questions:
- What or whose view of the world, or what kind of behaviour does this book present as normal?
- Does this book have any non-white (human) characters? If so, do they just happen to be in the story somewhere, or does a BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People, and People of Colour) character have a central role or story?
- When thinking about the lived experience of my child, is this book a mirror or a window?
By presenting diverse characters and concepts in your children’s books, you are setting them up to be familiar with, and respectful of, all people. Research has shown that even before a child is old enough to verbalise their understanding of physical differences, there are benefits to exposing them to varied representation of people in books and television, and by incorporating diversity into play.
What else can I do?
- Remember that you are constantly role-modelling attitudes and behaviour for your children. What you say (and what you don’t say) will inform your child’s beliefs from a young age.
- Diversity doesn’t stop at the bookshelf. Make an active commitment to incorporate toys that celebrate different races, cultures, and abilities.
I hope these tips encourage you to #diversifyyourbookshelf! If you are looking for book recommendations or other fun bookish content, head over to my Instagram account @bookieboobox! Also be sure to check out www.bookieboo.com.au if you’re on the hunt to purchase some great books.