children reading a book

The First Step to More Diversity is in Children’s Literature

The creation of a more diverse world has been a topic of discussion in all businesses, but those working in book publishing also want to see a significant change in how all people are being represented. While we can do what we can to continuously reach out and find more diverse people to work for our companies and write the books we publish, the problem remains a struggle that ultimately stems from how we have been raised and taught in our schools as children. Not to mention the question: is actively seeking more diverse people feeding into the problem of building a more diverse world and normalizing that all people have worth? Actively and openly seeking diversity seems to have the opposite impact of normalizing differences but instead further separating them; however, that may be a discussion point for a later blog.

Children begin building who they are and who they will become at a young age, making the jobs of adults and teachers even more important. Everything children see and are given will influence their future lives, and the books that they are provided could make all the difference. Elizabeth E. Thomas stresses in her research, “the way that teachers select and choose texts matters, for this ‘underpins our goals of growing literate beings who are competent and confident readers and writers, who think critically, and who have a commitment to making the world an equitable place for all.'” This, too, will assure that as adults whose many roles are to teach younger generations to better the world, the selection of what to put in front of them is a serious decision and can determine whether our future efforts of a more diverse world will be a success. In article by Georgina Chatfield, Senior Program Manager of the Royal Society for Arts, she highlights that in the 2018 report from Drawing the Future, “by the age of seven children’s aspirations appear to be shaped by gender-related stereotypes about who does certain jobs: boys aspire for traditionally male dominated professions and girls show a greater interest in nurturing and caring related roles than boys.” As publishers and adults responsible for teaching children, it is crucial “to have a gender lens on books and provide balance accordingly,” not just in gender but in race and other aspects of their identities too. Giving children stories that represent different people and lifestyles is not only helping us improve the amount of diversity we have in our world, but also all of their individual emotional health by making all children feel worthy and like they have a place in society.

I believe that when we begin focusing on the very root of the problem that we will see the most change in the workplace and all around the world. It helps that we are having these conversations now and beginning to release more diverse children’s books every day from here on. We have yet to achieve the goal of making everyone feel as though they are equal and worthy of being a part of this world, but in time and with persistence, gender or race won’t have an effect on one’s occupation.

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