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Diverse People Are People Too! by Eve Panzer, The Barefoot Librarian
As I often mention, I am a strong proponent of diverse, inclusive books that act as mirrors and windows for children. So, I naturally gravitate to diverse books where I can learn about people with customs and life experiences that differ from mine. Unfortunately, however, it seems many children’s books with diverse characters focus mainly on the struggles caused by their diversity.
True, it is crucial for these books to depict the authentic lives of diverse children, the challenges they meet, and how they overcome them. Books should inform us about their diversity and teach us to accept and respect their differences. But at the same time, children’s books should portray diverse characters doing everyday “kid” stuff and help us acknowledge and embrace them as fellow humans. Otherwise, I fear we will further marginalize diverse people by mostly depicting them only as victims.
So, we must seek out some diverse children’s books where diversity itself is not the main character. Instead, find some books where diverse characters play a starring role in a storyline that any kid can relate to and enjoy but also includes cultural elements. It takes a talented author to write an engaging story that also weaves aspects of diverse cultures seamlessly and respectfully into a story without making it feel like a social studies lesson. Fortunately, these authors and their books do exist.
Over the years, I have participated in Multicultural Children’s Book Day by reviewing books. Last year I reviewed a chapter book by the publisher Pack-n-Go Girls. Their mission statement closely reflects my sentiments in this article: “… to expand the world for young readers so they can better understand the diversity of cultures and the richness each one contributes to the world. We want them to see that there are so many ways to do life right, to live fully, richly, joyfully. And hopefully along the way, our books will lead to acceptance, tolerance, empathy, and ultimately—yes—equality.” Below are two of their books, one set in Brazil and the other in Thailand, but they also have books with adventures in Mexico and Austria. I hope you will join me in promoting these types of diverse books for kids too. All children need to see themselves as equals.
About our Guest Contributor
Eve Panzer, the Barefoot Librarian, is an experience retired school librarian for pre-K through sixth grade who has a passion for children’s literature. She enjoys working with educators, librarians, schools, parents, and grandparents to select engaging and enriching books that make a difference. She now also professionally reviews picture and middle-grade books, focusing on independent authors and small publishers. You can find her reviews at Blue Ink Review, First Chapter Plus, Reader Views Kids, GoodReads, Facebook, and on her website. Holding a graduate degree in Masters of Library Science from the University of Texas, Eve has been a professional in children’s literature since 1999.