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We take a look at the numbers and tell you where they add up and, even more importantly, where they don’t.

Portrait of a toddler engaged while reading a story with his mother.
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Are Your Kid's Books 'Colorful' Enough?

Source: Jo Unruh/Getty

literary lessons

Why There’s So Little Color In Children's Books

Why you should care

Because we learn about life from the pages of books.

Open up a children’s book, and what do you see?

Lots of white — and we’re not talking about the color of the pages.

The number of people of any color other than white in kids’ books is appallingly low. And it’s actually gotten worse in the past decade, even as the U.S. Census estimates that half of all children age 5 and younger come from racial minority families.

7 Multicultural Books…

…for the youngest readers, as recommended by the School Library Journal for preschool and elementary readers, among recent releases.

  1. Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane
  2. All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
  3. King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan
  4. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh
  5. Ling & Ting Share a Birthday by Grace Lin
  6. What a Party! by Ana Maria Machado
  7. The Gumazing Gum Girl! Chews Your Destiny by Rhode Montijo

93

out of some 3,200 children’s books in 2013 featured African-American characters, according to a study from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Compare that with 2008, when 172 books featured African or African-American characters, and 2002, a banner year for Latino characters, who appeared in 94 children’s books.

The center estimates that publishers release 5,000 new children’s titles annually, not counting commercial character-driven titles like Potty Time With Elmo. Of those, the center receives roughly 3,200 each year, and only about 10.5 percent of these featured kids of color (African-American plus Asian, Latino and Native American).

So how do we right this imbalance?

Let your wallet do the talking, to paraphrase Kathleen T. Horning, director of the CCBC, who wrote about the issue in this month’s School Library Journal.

The next time you buy a children’s book, choose from the 10 percent — and let your dollars speak for you. “Buy them for our schools, for our libraries, for our families, for our friends,” Horning writes.

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