When I became pregnant with Elias, I immediately started stocking his bookshelf with the classics. As he grew, so did his book collection. I unapologetically bought dozens and dozens of books for him – and later, for Adeline and Ezra – knowing the power of reading on a child’s development.
I’m ashamed to admit that I never really thought about how the books on our shelves reflected the diversity of the world. I bought what I knew, what I saw on Instagram and what Amazon told me I would like.
Then we released When God Made You, a book featuring a child of color on the cover. As we prepared for the launch, I read this startling statistic: 80% of the characters in children’s books are white. As I looked to our own bookshelves, I realized how much they lacked in diversity. I immediately set out to change that, buying a multitude of books that more accurately reflected the world.
Matthew and I have been overwhelmed with feedback from people of color thanking him for publishing a book that had a main character that looked like their child. As somebody who has never walked into a store and not seen my kids represented on the covers of children’s book, this last year has been eye-opening and humbling.
What we didn’t expect was how many white people would say things like –
I bought your book for a family I know that was adopting. It was perfect for them. Why wasn’t it perfect for your family?
Will your next book have a white main character? No. Why should it?
Maybe could you offer When God Made You featuring different ethnicities for people to choose from. Is this a joke?
I’m not making this up. Truly, it’s been horrifying. I have thought about writing about it numerous times, but the topic felt big, important and I worried about messing up the words. With When God Made Light releasing next week, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot again. I believe God will use this book, only as he can, to encourage all kiddos of all skin colors.
Here’s what I know and what I want to be sure you know: As parents, we must ensure that our family’s children’s books reflect diversity. Diversity in ethnicity, gender and situation. If your child’s books are full of white boys and girls, that needs to change.
Go to the library and challenge yourself to only check out books that don’t feature white main characters. Head to Amazon and fill your cart up. Do something to change this statistic. Teach your children empathy by reading books with characters who don’t look like them.
The world needs parents who do that with intention.
Preorder When God Made Light this week and get When God Made You free. Details here.
For more on this topic, read:
Why Young Children Need Diverse Books (No Time for Flashcards)