A study conducted in 2018* showed that half of all children’s books published that year featured white protagonists. There were more stories with animals (or other humanized characters like vehicles, toys, etc) than Black, Latinx, Asian, American Indians/First Nations. characters combined. A different 2018 study** found that of the 100 bestselling picture books of the year, only 38% of girls and women depicted had speaking parts.
“Windows and mirrors,” coined by educator Rudine Sims Bishop, is a framework people use to talk about diversity in media like books, magazines, advertising, and movies. A “mirror” is something you recognize because you see yourself in it—skin color, hair texture, a particular family type, an experience, a hobby or a game. A “window” is something you look through to learn more about something or someone new.
When white babies and young children only see “mirrors”—stories of people that look just like them—they are more likely to succumb to stereotypes. Giving children more than just a single story helps them understand that all people are equally complex, capable, and worthy of respect and equality. These mirrors, as the above infographic shows, are not evenly distributed—which leads white children to be surrounded by images of themselves, and children of color vastly underrepresented.
Underrepresentation particularly hurts those who have long been painted as the “other.” It’s time to overcorrect for this disparity, to promote and uplift authors and illustrators of color, and their stories—there is a need to give children of color, and children from other historically excluded communities, more mirrors. The mirror infographic is one depiction of the effect this disparity has on children: when they don’t see themselves in books, it’s harder for them to feel valued. And when children from majority identities don’t get windows into other children’s lives, they are more likely to construct negative biases and stereotypes, and to see those children as lesser than themselves.
This is by no means an exhaustive list; we welcome your suggestions on your favorite books with BIPOC characters and positive narratives. Please comment below, and we will update this list with your suggestions and more.
Here is a list of some of our recommended books that center main characters of color:
Please note that these age ranges are merely suggestions—babies and toddlers benefit immensely from hearing words they don’t yet understand, and many older children love reading and re-reading books that are geared towards a younger age.
- Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim & LeUyen Pham
- Hey, Baby! by Andrea Pippins
- Little You by Richard Van Kamp & Julie Flett
- Pretty Brown Face by Andrea & Brian Pinkney
- Shades of Black by Sandra L. Pinkney & Myles C. Pinkney
- We Sang You Home by Richard Van Kamp & Julie Flett
- Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim & LeUyen Pham
- Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim & LeUyen Pham
- Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee
- So Much! by Trish Cooke & Helen Oxenbury
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña & Christian Robinson
- Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
- Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry & Vashti Harrison
- All Because You Matter by Tami Charles & Bryan Collier
- Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
- Every Little Thing by Bob Marley, Cedella Marley & Vanessa Brantley-Newton
- Freedom, We Sing by Amyra León & Molly Mendoza
- I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley & E.B. Lewis
- You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith & Danielle Daniel
- A Night Out With Mama by Quvenzhané Wallis & Vanessa Brantley-Newton
- Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin
- Encounter by Brittany Luby & Michaela Goade
- Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim & Grace Zong
- He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands by Kadir Nelson
- Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
- Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney
- Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow & Ebony Glenn
- Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
- Shortcut by Donald Crews
- Watercress by Andrea Wang & Jason Chin
- When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff & Kaylani Juanita
- Game Changers by Lesa Cline-Ransome & James E. Ransome
- Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai & Kerascoët
- Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard
- I Sang You Down From the Stars by Tasha Spillet Sumner
Here are some of our favorite Instagram accounts that promote and support diverse books and authors:
- The Conscious Kid (@theconsciouskid)—”Parenting and Education through a Critical Race Lens. #OwnVoices Books. Black and Brown Owned.”
- Diversity & Inclusion Expert (@hereweeread)—”Helping you find diverse books, educational products and raise curious kids.”
- Black Baby Books (@blackbabybooks)—”We make it easier to discover children’s books with Black characters.”
- We Need Diverse Books (@weneeddiversebooks)—”We are a nonprofit organization created to address the lack of diverse narratives in children’s lit.”
- Little Books Big World (@littlebooksbigworld)—”EarlyChildhoodEd• KidLit•LiteracyAdvocate•Writer”
- The Tiny Activist (@thetinyactivists)—”Educate to empower.”
- Books for Diversity (@booksfordiversity)—”Bringing you #childrensbooks that reflect the diversity and the unique cultures that make up our nation and world.”
- Dee (@ilovebooksandicannotlie)—”Master educator helping parents & teachers w/ curating diverse & inclusive books!”
- Brown Books & Paintbrushes (@brownbooksandpaintbrushes)—Art. Culture. Literacy. For Young Children.”
- Well-Read Black Girl (@wellreadblackgirl)—”Founder @guidetoglo support Black girls, women, & non-binary writers! Find a #wrbg book club at your bookstore | Donate to our annual festival!”
*Infographic source: Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/literature-resources/ccbc-diversity-statistics/books-by-about-poc-fnn/. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/.
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Let’s build a list of books & resources to give your child windows and mirrors
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