Our world is an exciting place. Cultures are blending, family dynamics are changing, and the world that the next generation is inheriting has become a delightful melting pot of different cultures, races, and traditions. Kidlit provides families with an invaluable opportunity to discover our world through vibrant stories, education resources, and colorful illustrations and imagery. All without ever having to leave the comfort of home.
Also, imagine being a child in a multicultural family and not be able to “find yourself” within the pages of the books you read. According to the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the number of books published in the U.S. by and about people of color is still alarmingly non-reflective of the demographics of the country. The good news is; this statistic is poised for a change thanks to the increasing awareness of libraries, organizations, parents, and teachers. Here are a few reasons why we think this is improving:
**Reason One: In the past, there was a big question mark in many minds when it came to identifying what books were truly considered “diverse” or “multicultural.” Now key factors to help parents, caregivers, educators, and librarians identify books are more widely known and shared and initiatives like #OwnVoices also help book buyers add more diverse books to their home or classroom bookshelf. In a nutshell:
- Look for books (picture books, chapter book, or YA books) that contain main characters of color as well as supporting characters that represent a minority point of view.
- Look for books that share ideas, stories, and information about cultures, race, religion, language, disabilities, and traditions.
- Consider Non-fiction: Fiction stories are great, but non-fiction books that embrace our world and can also offer kids new ways to connect to a diverse world in a fun and entertaining way as well.
- Research the hashtag #OwnVoices for books written by people of color about their own diverse experiences and journeys.
**Reason Two: As the demand for diverse kids’ books increases, so does the awareness from publishers charged with producing those books. It is no secret that, up until the last ten years, children’s book publishing has been very…white. But now, veteran publishing houses that have been committed to offering only the best diverse books for decades are getting the recognition they deserve thanks to heightened awareness from the book-buying public. For those looking for traditionally published heavy hitters in the diverse kidlit publishing world, consider visiting these sources for high-quality multicultural books for kids:
- Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country, and one of the few minority-owned publishing has been committed to producing children’s literature that reflects other races, religions, cultures, and traditions since 1991.
- Capstone: As Minnesota-based publishing, Capstone has been making its mark in the multicultural kidlit book arena for over 25 years. Capstone offers a fantastic line-up of diverse books for young readers of all age groups but is best known for its recent 2018 Caldecott Honor Book, A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illus. by Thi Bui
- Wisdom Tales Press: Wisdom Tales is the name of the children’s book imprint of the award-winning publishing house, World Wisdom, which was founded in 1980. Wisdom Tales publishes both children’s and teen titles and was created to share the wisdom, beauty, and values of traditional cultures and people from around the world with young readers and their families.
- Candlewick Press: Candlewick Press is one of the fastest-growing children’s book publishers in the United States. Established in 1991, we are a progressive and creative company with a steadfast commitment to the best. Some of their more notable diverse titles include Baby Goes to Market, Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior, 42 is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero, Pattan’s Pumpkin: An Indian Flood Story and Escalera a La Luna by Maya Soetoro-Ng and Yuyi Morales.
**Reason Three: The need for books that reflect our world is on the radar of today’s librarians as well. “I think all librarians would like to see more good quality multicultural books written for kids,” noted Santa Monica librarian, Amy Muscoplat. “Many of those good books that do exist do not always get in front of collections librarians because they may not show up in the guides they turn to for book reviews and more. This is especially true for books from very small presses or indie books. If we could be made more aware of these high-quality diversity children’s books, it would help us to recommend them to young patrons, families, and teachers.”
**Reason Four: Publishing diverse books are not just for big publishing houses anymore. Many beautiful and accurate multicultural reads are being produced by small boutique publishing houses that pack a big punch. Here are a few:
Make A Way Media: Owned by an ambitious mom who also happens to be a lawyer and children and family health advocate, Dee Cummings has dedicated the last decade to writing and publishing children’s picture books that fill much-needed reading gaps. Her diverse books cover a wide range of topics including family dynamics, mindfulness for kids, and empathy.
Books can teach kids hard facts like geography and history, and soft, yet-no-less-important, skills like empathy and kindness. Make A Way Media is definitely meant to teach the latter. Its books focus on spreading positivity and instilling gratitude with each turn of the page. ~Mater Mea, Lifestyle Magazine
She penned her latest book, In The Nick of Time, because of a glaring void in Christmas books that offered a little brown boy as the main character; a character that also helps Santa save Christmas. To learn more about Make A Way Media and her catalog of diverse picture books for kids, go here.
Shout Mouse Press: Shout Mouse Press is a nonprofit writing program and publishing house that empowers young people from marginalized backgrounds to tell their own stories in their voices act as leaders and agents of change.
Pack-n-Go Girls: Those who have a middle reader in the family that dreams of mysterious adventures and faraway places, the Pack-n-Go Girls® chapter books are just the ticket.
Star Bright Books: Star Bright Books is an independent children’s book publishing house established in 1994. They are dedicated to producing great books for great kids—books for parents and children to discover together. Bilingual titles from Star Bright that are a “must-read” include Books and Bricks: How a School Rebuilt the Community (Ages 10-12), Cradle Me (A birth to 3 board book published in English, Navajo/English, Ojibwe/English), Alicia’s Happy Day (For ages 4-8 also in Spanish/English), and A Fish to Feed (A ages 1-3 board book that is also available in Spanish/English).
Inhabit Education, Inc.: Canadian-based Inhabit Education is a Nunavut-based educational publishing company with a mission to provide parents and educators with resources infused with an authentic Northern perspective, Inuit languages, ways of life, and imagery.
**Reason Five: Adults now understand that it is not only up to educators and libraries to get books of a multicultural nature into the hands of young readers, it is also the responsibility of parents and caregivers. Thanks to access to endless booklists and free resources for at-home use and homeschooling, parents are not struggling to identify books that allow their child to “see themselves” within the pages, or open up new and exciting worlds. As soon as their Littles can hold a board book, parents and caregivers can begin introducing their readers to new races, religions, family dynamics, traditions, and cultures. Online sites like 1000 Black Girl Books, Scholastic, Kitaab World, and Multicultural Children’s Book Day are all excellent sources of diverse book titles and author recommendations.
A Two-Minute Action Plan for Parents
Two of the best ways to help kids learn and enjoy learning about new cultures and traditions are through the exploration of ethnic food and diverse books. Books are especially influential because they contain the seeds of curiosity that inspire readers to look further and discover what is “out there” in the real world. Having access to these kinds of books is an integral part of learning, play, and imagination while also helping kids understand and be curious about other lives, countries, and cultures.
Nevertheless, it is not enough to own these multicultural books. Studies have shown that reading to a child as little as twenty minutes per week will result in stronger readers and an interest in books that will last a lifetime. Reading aloud is also an excellent chance to share adventure, intrigue, and emotion during a time when the reader (and listener) are 100% present in the moment. In a hectic, loud, and fast-paced world, those one-one moments between child and parent are irreplaceable.