Do Kids See Themselves in Books?

boy of color leaning against a bookWho do kids see in their books – are they reflected in the stories they find on our shelves? Perhaps not, if they are outside the dominant White culture.  How can we help kids find their own selves reflected in the books they read? Diverse Book Finder logoDiverse Book Finder is a great tool to use for our bookshelves, and can also be used effectively for your home libraries.

Diverse Book Finder offers opportunities for all to experience and identify with characters in their own cultures, cultures that are considered “diverse” when compared to the influential White culture.

Diverse Book Finder’s mission is “To diversify and balance bookshelves everywhere, that all our children can find themselves reflected and celebrated in libraries, schools and homes across the nation; and to move the diverse books discussion beyond a focus simply on the lack of numbers to also consider content and impact by translating research findings so that they are accessible and useful.”

What is it like to not see yourself reflected in books? Read on for an excerpt of a moving story by Walter Dean Myers, who was a leading author of young people’s books, about identifying with characters in books, and the impact on his own life.  [Find books by Walter Dean Myers in the catalog.]

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?
by Walter Dean Myers, March 15, 2014

“I am a writer, but I also see myself as something of a landscape artist. I paint pictures of scenes for inner-city youth that are familiar, and I people the scenes with brothers and aunts and friends they all have met.
Thousands of young people have come to me saying that they love my books for some reason or the other, but I strongly suspect that what they have found in my pages is . . . recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgment of their value by someone who understands who they are. It is the shock of recognition at its highest level.”

Read the entire story, and understand more what it feels like to be not depicted in books.