This article was written by United Way of the Plains
Join us in supporting an exciting new project that combines educating our children, promoting diversity, and helping others. Wichita Mom and United Way of the Plains are joining forces to offer a fun book challenge for you and your children during the month of February, which is also Black History Month.
The Representation Gap
Research shows that racial minorities are vastly under-represented in children’s books. In fact, in 2019, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that only 10 % of children’s books published between 1994-2014 include minority characters. When compared with the fact that about 50 % of U.S. children today are minorities, we see an alarming gap in representation.
This representation gap in our books needs to be fixed. Without more children books with characters of color, we will continue to harm the emotional growth of minority children instead of rising to the ideal best summarized by Author Eric Valasquez,
“Once children see themselves in books, their existence is validated, and they feel they are part of the world.”
Another issue is that until people begin to purchase books that include characters who are racial minorities, the publishing industry lacks the incentive to close the gap.
Become Part of the Solution
We want to encourage our community to be a part of the solution when it comes to minority representation in children’s literature, and we believe this project will be a great way to facilitate discussions about diversity and inclusion with your children.
For this project, we have compiled a list of appropriate children’s books, organized by age of interest, from which families can choose a book(s) to read together. We are “challenging” moms to acquire at least one book from the list to read with their children. As we read with our children, we are socializing them at an early age to what it means to embrace people from all walks of life.
Wichita Moms Give Back
One important part of this project is the opportunity for you and your child to give the gift of reading to other children in our community. For this purpose, we are thrilled to partner with Storytime Village whose mission is to provide a lifelong love of reading to underserved children. We never want access to quality literature, especially books with minority characters, to be a barrier in the fight for children’s literacy so we have created an easy-to-use Amazon booklist for interested families to buy a book that will be donated to Storytime Village. You and your child are not only learning something together, but you also have a chance to help underserved children in our community “feel they are part of the world.” This portion of the project is, of course, not required but highly recommended!
Finally, we are asking moms and children to reflect on the books they have read using our form, either in written or video format. We will compile pieces of reflections to showcase the thoughts of families in our community on this important topic. We have a deadline for families of Feb. 22 so this entire challenge can be completed in the month of February.
Specific instructions can be found on our book challenge landing page here.
Let’s both celebrate and promote diversity in our community this Black History Month by sharing stories featuring under-represented populations with our children. The investment in their education now will help shape a more just and equitable future where all people can achieve their human potential. We hope you will accept this “book challenge,” and help us develop our young inclusive readers to one day be wonderful inclusive leaders.