Seeking Books of Color

Slice of Life logoWoke up this morning and pulled the paper into the house from the cold white steps. Briefly looked at my white yard and reflected once again on the lack of color. The thoughts revisited that when every thing is the same we miss the richness of life. We miss the variety and challenges of hearing and seeing life in new and different ways.

I live in a big city because I like different perspectives. I want to read and be a part of lives that are different from my own. I also understand the need to read and gather with people who are like me as well.

We need both in our lives.  Our students need many voices, faces and perspectives in their lives as well. Having spent most of my teaching career working with students in poverty and communities with diverse populations I have always been seeking books that share their story.

I know the importance of reading books that reflect your own life and also reading books about people who have very different experiences from my own. The first thing I do when I walk into a new book store is scan for Children’s books that reflect people of color. They are hard to find. There are some great publishers I can go to, like Lee and Low but I want to be able to pick up stories for my students without having to seek a special publisher. I want my students to walk into a book store and know these books are about their lives not just the lives of white kids.  16BOOKSJPSUB-master495

So I was happy to see but sad to reflect on the article in the New York time this morning. I loved that Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher Myers spoke to this issue as well. They are far more eloquent that I -so please take a minute to read their editorial this morning.

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?

The Apartheid of Children’s Literature

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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8 Responses to Seeking Books of Color

  1. Yes, a perfectly written piece (by both you and Myers!) Keep thinking about a quote from Geena Davis about women in film – first step, just take half the characters, and rename them with women’s names. Of course, we need characters that represent unique life experiences of people of color, but so many more characters of color out there that represent the life experiences of all people!

    • There certainly are more than in the past but still to few! It is also amazing when you start looking for books with students of color that are not about slavery or civil rights the numbers drop very quickly. It is important for students to find books that represent their day to day experiences as well as the historical content. Thanks for you comment. So glad to hear others thinking about this as well.

  2. Chris H. says:

    You’re thinking about a topic that is so important here. This still seems true across almost all media in America–just one or two perspectives are represented on anything… not a multitude. It seems like those with the most money to buy airtime and politicians are those whose voices are heard while the masses are silenced.

    • It is so important as teachers that we bring all faces and voices to the table for our students. I was struck by Christopher’s comment from publishers that the covers of books should only show text.That white children won’t buy them. Just plan sad!

      “The Market, I am told, just doesn’t demand this kind of book, doesn’t want book covers to look this or that way, and so the representative from (insert major bookselling company here) has asked that we have only text on the book cover because white kids won’t buy a book with a black kid on the cover”

  3. chrisleish says:

    You remind me to be more purposeful about trying to find books for my classroom library, especially my boys of color. I live in San Francisco and after reading your piece, and the Meyers’, I decided to seek out Marcus Bookstore, the “Oldest Black Bookstore”, located in the Fillmore District. How ironic that I find there is a threat to evict this local landmark. http://www.marcusbookstores.com/books.html
    I hope I am not too late in getting out the word at school and across the District to support this valuable resource.

  4. I read both of these around 5:00 a.m. First I read the one by WDM and was thrilled the Times gave his piece top position under the Sunday Review (online) section. And what was next? The one by Christopher Myers. Also excellent.

    I’ve been trying to get a picture book manuscript which has a Latina main character published. So far no takers. Maybe one day someone will want to include it on their book list! After all, ALL children deserve to see themselves in books!

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