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Issues in Diversity


Materials for Youth 13: Issues in Diversity
from Annette Lamb on Vimeo.
To read the transcript of this video, go to the transcript page.

When selecting materials for youth, librarians should consider issues of diversity. Often, racial differences are the first to come to mind, but gender, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, and disability are just a few of the other areas for consideration.

East and Thomas (2007, 1) note that children need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

"As children have new experiences, they may feel uncertain and insecure. They want to be reassured and feel comfortable with the changes in their lives. Even as they try to fit in, they want to know that others respect their differences and that they have their own identities."

Children need experiences that both mirror their own life and provide windows to life in other places.

Youth enjoy reading about others who share their life experiences. If you want to increase use of the library by a particular group such as African Americans students or male middle school students, you need to consider what they would like to read. For instance, Jon Scieszka created a website called Guys Read to specifically address the reading interest of boys.

In addition to reading books that direct connect with children's lives, it’s also important for young people to learn from the experiences of others. This is essential in today’s interconnected world. For instance, The Parvana or Breadwinner quartet (2000+ series) by Deborah Ellis accurately depicts the lives of girls and women living in Afghanistan.

ellisellisellisellis

Author Patrica Polacco was asked; "Your books do such as good job of briding cultures, and they never smack of contrivance. How do you make that happen story after story?" Polacco responded (Scholastic, 2014),

"It's the way I've lived my life. My mother's people were Russian Jews who emigrated here at the turn of the century. My father's family is shanty Irish. I live in Oakland, California, in a mixed neighborhood. My best friend is a black man. We've done everything together from birthing babies to burying our dead. I'm used to seeing people of different races and cultures and religions in my living room. Most kids don't have that environment. When they can read stories that celebrate our diversity, hopefully they'll come away from them with a renewed respect for people who are different from them. If you can build this respect at a very young age, then society will eventually even out."

A growing number of books explore the refugee experience. While some of these transplanted youth miss their homeland or feel stuck between two worlds, others are thankful for their new houses and grateful to be away from poverty and war. All of these immigrants face issues related to culture and the process of adjusting to a new life far from their homeland.

readSkim!
Skim Transplanted: Stories of Refugee Children by Amina Chaudhri in Booklist Online.

redThe Carter G. Woodson Book Award from the National Council for Social Studies is presented to exemplary books written for children and young people “that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and relations sensitively and accurately”. In 2013 the book titled Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim won in the elementary level division.

Popular winners of this award include

readRead!
Read Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? by Walter Dean Myers in the New York Times (March 15, 2014). Walter Dean Myers died in 2014, however his legacy will live on.


International Perspectives

Many children and young adults develop misconceptions about cultures and stereotypical views about the people who live in particular places. It's important that they are exposed to a variety of reading experiences.

readRead!
Read Edinger, Monica (January/February, 2014). Books about Africa. Horn Book, 52-58.

By reading books about diverse cultures, youth get the opportunity to see how others around the world live and understand the value of multiple perspectives. For instance, Rickshaw Girl (2007) by Mitali Perkins focuses on a Bangladeshi child.

readSkim!
Skim an interview with Mitali Perkins in Booklist Online as she discusses multicultural literature for youth.

A Time to Dance (2014) by Padma Venkatraman tells the story of a young dancer who loses her leg and struggles to relearn the ancient bharatanatyam dance form.

Even young children can begin to understand international perspectives. Kathryn Cave's One Child, One Seed: A South African Counting Book (2002) is a counting book that can be used with very young children. Dear Juno (1999) by Soyung Pak tells the story of a Korean-American boy who learns to bridge the language barrier with his grandmother through the use of drawings and letters.

Young adults can learn much from reading about life in other countries. The Girl Named Disaster (1996) by Nancy Farmer is set in Africa. Nhamo learns that she must marry a cruel man, so she runs away. Her journey is a story of survival and spiritual exploration. The Composition (2003) by Antonio Skármeta is a work of realistic fiction focusing on a 9-year-old boy growing up under a dictatorship. The book provides interesting insights into a world unfamiliar to American children. In Darkness (2012) by Nick Lake focuses on the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. Click the image below right to read a passage.

darknessdark

Words in the Dust (2011) by Trent Reedy tells the story of thirteen-year-old Zulaikha who lives in a small Afghan town.

Monsoon (2003) by Uma Krishnaswami takes youth to Northern India where they experience the author describes the rains.

In 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (2002) by , the author shares a collection of poems about the Middle East. Click the image below right for an excerpt.

gazellefig

readRead!
Read Bloem, Patricia L. (2011). Humanizing the “So-Called Enemy”: Teaching the Poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye. ALAN Review, 38(2), 6-12.

Multicultural Literature

mitzahMulticultural children’s literature attempts to represent cultural differences to young readers. According to Dudek (2011),

“in the best cases, such as Shaun Tan’s wordless picture book /graphic novel The Arrival (2006), readers negotiate a complex, culturally diverse community and may emerge with a stronger understanding of and respect for cultural differences and the effect they have on individual group identities.”

Many nations now require schools to incorporate multicultural children’s books into the curriculum. However, Dudek notes that “while some of these resources provide useful and insightful perspectives, many of them promote criteria that offer uncritical, simplistic representations”. For instance, they may romanticize traditional ways of life rather than providing accurate portrayals.

From alphabet books to counting books, consider multicultural experiences for children. Joseph Bruchac's Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native American (1997) is a great way to jumpstart a primary grade discussion of Indian tribes.

Many of the same themes can be found across literature representing different cultures. Although children in many cultures enjoy wearing "special clothes" associated with their traditions, they may also experience concerns about looking different or not fitting in (East & Thomas, 2007). Books like Suki's Kimono (2003) by Chieri Uegaki, If the Show Fits (2002) by Gary Soto, and Jamela's Dress (1999) by Niki Daly are examples.

Issues associated with acceptance and self-image often focus on topics such names and languages. In The Name Jar (2001) by Yangsook Choi, Unhei is embarrassed by her name.

The United States contains citizens who come from a wide range of cultures, so it's important to consider the diversity of cultures often represented within a single family. For instance, My Basmati Bat Mitzvah (2013) by Paula J. Freedman focuses on 12-year-old Tara Feinstein with South Asian-Jewish heritage.

readRead!
Skim Chaudhri, Amina & Teale, William H. (2013). Stories of Multiracial Experiences in Literature for Children, Ages 9–14. Children’s Literature in Education, 44, 359–376.

Looking for great book ideas? Download East, Kathy & Thomas, Rebecca L. (2007). Across Cultures: A Guide to Multicultural Literature for Children. Libraries Unlimited. It's available as an eBook through IUPUI.

African American Literature

In her article African American, Michelle Martin (2011) highlights the shifting terminology in African American children’s literature. Unlike most literature for youth genre, African American literature has traditionally been defined by the author’s race rather than the audience for the book or theme of the books. However increasingly, books about the Black experience written by non-African Americans are also being considered in this category.

Works by Walter Dean Myers, Mildred Taylor, Christopher Paul, Curtis, and Jacqueline Woodson focus on youth of African descent.

readRead!
Read Engles, Tim & Kory, Fern (2014). “What did she see?”: The White Gaze and Postmodern Triple Consciousness in Walter Dean Myers’s Monster. Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 39(1), 49-67.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards “recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience". The 2014 winner was P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia providing a sequel to the popular One Crazy Summer.

Popular winners of this award include

tupacAuthor Spotlight: Jacqueline Woodson
Visit the author website.

After Tupac and D Foster (2008)
Behind You (2005)
Coming On Home Soon (2004)
Each Kindness (2012)
Hush (2002)
Locomotion (2003)
Miracle's Boys (2000)
Peace Locomotion (2010)
The Other Side (2001)
Show Way (2005)

mcAuthors You Should Know

Works by Christopher Paul Curtis such as The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (1995)
Works by Virginia Hamilton such as M.C. Higgins, the Great (1974)
Works by Julius Lester such as Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue (2006)
Works by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack such as The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (1992)
Works by Walter Dean Myers such as Darius & Twig (2013)
Works by Andrea Davis Pinkney such as Duke Ellington (1998)
Works by Faith Ringgold such as Tar Beach (1996)
Works by Mildred Taylor such as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976)
Works by Jacqueline Woodson such as Miracle's Boys (2000)

Asian American Literature

Yumi Heo was asked how he's able to portray the Korean immigrant experience. He states (Scholastic, 2014),

"I came to America from a small town in Korea six years ago. When I was at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, I did a book about the racial disharmony there. An editor said it would be difficult to publish, but she encouraged me to write a Korean immigrant story. So I wrote and illustrated One Afternoon. The child's experience of the big buildings, noises, and excitement of New York City was like my own.

In Father's Rubber Shoes, the father telling the story about the rubber shoes is a story my mom told me when I was little. The basis for the story is that when Koreans come to this country, they don't come with a lot money. They start from the bottom and try to work their way up. They are trying to do better for their children."

Tea with Milk (1999) by Allen Say deals with the struggle some child have living between cultures.

The Thing About Luck (2013) by Cynthia Kadohata follows twelve-year-old Summer and her Japanese-American family as they face both physical and emotional challenges.

readRead!
Read Yi, Joanne H. (2014). ‘‘My Heart Beats in Two Places’’: Immigration Stories in Korean-American Picture Books. Children’s Literature in Education, 45, 129–144.

kiraAuthors You Should Know

Works by Japanese-American Cynthia Kadohata such as Kira-Kira (2004)
Works by Korean-American An Na focus such as A Step from Heaven (2001)
Works by Korean-American Linda Sue Park such as Project Mulberry (2005)
Works by Japanese-American Allen Say such as Grandfather's Journey (1993)
Works by Chinese-American Laurence Yep such as Dragon's Gate (1993)
Works by Chinese-American Gene Luen Yang such as American Born Chinese (2006)

Latino and Latina Literature

Gary Soto was asked how to find good Mexican-American books. Soto (Scholastic, 2014) states,

"Find out whether the author is from the Mexican-American culture. If not, be wary. It can't be done from the outside — it's too hard to get it right. Also, look for good storytelling. If the author is not dealing with social issues — that's a good sign. Too often I see books about Mexican-Americans that adopt a patronizing "poor them, they're working too hard" tone."

The House on Mango Street (1984) by Sandra Cisneros is a coming-of-age novel focusing on a young Latino girl growing up in Chicago.

yaqThe Pura Belpre Award offered by ALSC-ALA “is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” The 2014 author winner was Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina focusing on the topics of bullying and resilience.

Popular winners of this award include

The Americas Award is given “to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States”. The 2013 winner titled The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano explores the turmoil that existed in 1969 Spanish Harlem.

Popular winners of this award include

Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Literature Award is “honors authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience”. The 2013 winner titled Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall focuses on a teenager growing up in a Texas border town.

Popular winners of this award include

readRead!
Read Latino/a by Phillip Serrato in Keywords for Children’s Literature.

readRead!
Read Saldaña, Jr, René (2012) Mexican American YA Lit: It’s Literature with a Capital “L”! ALAN Review, 39(2), 68-73. -- saldana.pdf

risingAuthor Spotlight: Pam Muñoz Ryan 
Visit the author website.

Becoming Naomi León (2005)
Esperanza Rising (2000)
Paint the Wind (2007)
Riding Freedom (1998)


surrenderAuthors You Should Know

Works by Mexican-American Verna Aardema such as Borreguita and the Coyote (1991)
Works by Cuban-American Margarita Engle such as The Surrender Tree (2008)
Works by Latina Pat Mora such as Book Fiesta! (2010)
Works by Mexican-American Pam Muñoz Ryan such as Esperanza Rising (2000)
Works by Mexican-American Gary Soto such as The Pool Party (1993)

Jewish Literature

The Jewish Council website states

"Considering the differences in observance and practice that exist among American Jews, there’s no guarantee that every Jewish child will have values-rich experiences. So the custom of reading books - at home at bedtime, during a family together time, as a private past-time or in school during library story hours, classroom reading sessions, or as silent reading - becomes ever-more important as a means of transmitting Jewish values to Jewish children."

In The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West (2006) by Steve Sheinkin retells classic Jewish folktales in an appealing graphic novel format.

Read!
Skim the article Cummins, June (2011). What Are Jewish Boys and Girls Made Of?: Gender in Contemporary Jewish Teen and Tween Fiction. Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 36(3), 296-317.

cupThe Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented “to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience”. Their categories include young readers, older readers, and teen readers. The 2014 winner for older readers was The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco.

Popular winners of this award include

Intentions (2012) by Deborah Heiligman tells the story of 15-year-old Rachel Greenberg who becomes angry and confused after a series of betrayals involving her family. Judaism is at the forefront of this coming-of-age story.

intentionAuthor Spotlight: Deborah Hiligman
Visit the author website.

The Boy Who Loved Math (2012)
Charles and Emma
(2009)
Dog
(2010+ series)
Holidays Around the World
(series)
Intentions
(2012)

yolenAuthors You Should Know

Works by Barbara Cohen such as Molly's Pilgrim (1985)
Works by Deborah Heiligman such as Intentions (2012)
Works by Patricia Polacco such as Mrs. Katz and Tush (1992)
Works by Jane Yolen such as The Devil's Arithmetic (1988)



Middle East, Far East, and South Asian Literature

Interest in books about Middle East, Far East, and South Asian cultures have gained in popularity over the past decade. The short stories and poems in Muslim Child (2002) by Rukhsana Khan examine the world through the eyes of Muslim children.

readRead!
Read Baer, Allison L., and Jacqueline N. Glasgow (2010). Negotiating understanding through the young adult literature of Muslim cultures: educators can use young adult literature and the experiential learning activities described in this article to help students embrace a more multicultural experience and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(1), 23+.

fixThe Grand Plan to Fix Everything (2011) by Uma Krishnaswami is a engaging story that explores what happens with an eleven-year-old Indian-American girl moves to India for a couple years.

The Middle East Council Book Awards are given to books that "celebrate citizen activism, heroism, inventive genius, and cultural heritage". Examples include:

South Asia Book Award honors books 'which accurately and skillfully portrays South Asia or South Asians in the diasporas, that is the experience of individuals living in South Asia, or of South Asians living in other parts of the world." Popular winners of this award include

climbAuthors You Should Know

Works by Anjali Banerjee such as Maya Running (2005)
Works by Uma Krishnaswami such as The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (2011)
Works by Asma Mobin-Uddin such as My Name is Bilal (2005)
Works by Naomi Nye such as Habib (1997)
Works by Padma Venkatraman such as Climbing the Stairs (2008)


Native American Literature

Authors of works that represent Native American cultures share both ancient tales rooted in oral tradition as well as stories that accurately reflect present-day culture.

Joseph Bruchac and Louise Erdrich specialize in stories that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the American Indian.

Some wonderful works of nonfiction focus on the contributions of Native Americans. For instance, Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing (2004) by James Rumford traces the life of the man who designed a written language for the Cherokee people.

When asked about selecting Native American literature, Joseph Bruchac states (Scholastic, 2014):

"Seek out books that depict characters from a well-defined individual native nation — as opposed to generic Indians. I say this because there are popular books that were written without understanding these specific differences. For example, in Annie and the Old One by Miska Miles — which is a story of a little girl dealing with the death of her grandmother — descriptions and illustrations are totally incorrect for the Navajo culture. And no one in any Native American culture would call his or her grandmother "old one." Books like this are insensitive due to ignorance, not through intention — but it hurts just as much."

readRead!
Read Stewart, Michelle Pagni (2013). "Counting Coup" on Children's Literature about American Indians: Louise Erdrich's Historical Fiction. Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 38(2), 215-235.

In books like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007), Sherman Alexie demonstrates the problems facing today's Indian population. Because his works speak frankly about the plight of Native Americans, they are sometimes perceived as racist and in come cases banner.

Click the image below right to view a cartoon created by the story's protagonist.

alexieindian

readRead!
Read Idaho Resident Calls Police on Absolutely True Diary Giveaway (2014) by Maren Williams. This is only one of many incidents surrounding this book. Why do you think this book has been the target for so much controversy?

readSkim!
Skim Kertzer, Adrienne (2012). Not Exactly: Intertextual Identities and Risky Laughter in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. Children's Literature, 40, 49-77.

American Indian Youth Literature Awards are presented every two years. The awards were established "as a way to identify and honor the very best writing and illustrations by and about American Indians".

Popular winners of this award include

mudNative American Books You Should Know

Works by Sherman Alexie such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007)
Works by Joseph Bruchac such as Buffalo Song (2008)
Works by Louise Erdrich such as The Birchbark House (2002+ series)
Works by Paul Goble such as The Boy and His Mud Horses (2010)
Works by Shonto Begay such as Ma'ii and Cousin Horned Toad  (1992)

Intellectual and Physical Challenges

someoneIt's important that children and young adults have opportunities to read about youth who face intellectual and physical challenges.

In Redefining Normal: A Critical Analysis of (Dis)ability in Young Adult Literature, Jen Scott Curwood (2013, 15) explores constructions of normalcy and disability through books like Jerk, California, Marcelo in the Real World, and Five Flavors of Dumb. She notes that "these novels offer complex and realistic portrayals of characters with disabilities."

In The Impact of Fiction on Perceptions of Disability, Menchetti, Plattos, and Carroll (2011, 56) note that

"Often, however, even today's adolescent and young adult fiction, characters who are portrayed as having developmental disabilities are depicted stereotypically instead of realistically. These inaccurate portrayals, along with accurate ones, need to be examined by adolescent readers - readers who are building their own catalogues of criteria regarding human behavior and human condition as they develop their own value systems. Teachers (and librarians) can introduce adolescents to fictitious portrayals of characters with developmental disabilities in books and movie, and help them analyze and evaluate these characters. In so doing, they are helping their students explore their own attitudes and assumptions regarding these types of significant disabilities."

Abbye Meyer (2013, 282) notes that

"Freak the Mighty, Stuck in Neutral, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Accidents of Nature, Annie’s World, Reaching for Sun, and Small Steps all position disability as a marginalized identity category worthy of pride, privilege difference and inclusivity, and make arguments for accommodation. But in their celebrations of disability, these texts also continue to marginalize intellectual disability by forcing disabled characters to accept themselves and gain agency through their intelligence, refuting any assumptions that their disabilities may include intellectual impairments or that they are at all united with intellectually dis- abled peers. Contemporary adolescent literature, then, mirrors the political advances made by people with disabilities in Western society—as evidenced in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and further political strides for equal rights and pride—as well as the long and continuing tradition of silencing and discriminating against intellectually disabled people in legal, critical, theoretical, philosophical, and literary conversations. Such discrimination and erasure of people with intellectual disabilities, across so many disciplines, deserves attention and activism."

The Schneider Family Book Award “honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences”. A 2014 winner is Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am (2012) by Peter Lerangis focuses on a teen solider returning home from Iraq.

Popular winners of this award include

readRead!
Read Irwin, Marilyn & Moeller, Robin (2012). Seeing the Same: Follow-Up Study on the Portrayals of Disability in Graphic Novels by Young Adults. School Library Research, 15.

universeBooks You Should Know

A Corner of the Universe (2002) by Ann Martin
Hanni and Beth: Safe and Sound (2007) by Beth Finke
Kami and the Yaks (2007) by Andrea Stenn Stryer
Out of my Mind (2010) by Sharon Draper
Rules (2006) by Cynthia Lord
Shark Girl (2007) by Kelly L. Bingham
Small Steps (2006) by Louis Sachar
Tending to Grace (2006) by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Things Not Seen (2002) by Andrew Clements
Things That Are (2008) by Andrew Clements
What Would Joey Do? (2002) by Jack Gantos

Gender Role Issues

Pink or blue, dolls or trucks, girl or boy books... gender stereotypes continue to be in the normal.

Although many works for youth published since the 1970s have tried to dispel traditional gender stereotypes, many books are still described as "boy books" or "girl books".

readRead!
Read Taber, Nancy & Woloshyn, Vera (2011). Dumb Dorky Girls and Wimpy Boys: Gendered Themes in Diary Cartoon Novels. Children’s Literature in Education, 42, 226–242.

OR

Read Crisp, Thomas & Hiller, Brittany (2011). ‘‘Is This a Boy or a Girl?’’: Rethinking Sex-Role Representation in Caldecott Medal-Winning Picturebooks, 1938–2011. Children’s Literature in Education, 42, 196–212.

OR

Read Silver, Anna (2010). Twilight is not good for maidens: gender, sexuality, and the family in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Studies in Novel, 42(1-2), 121.

LGBTQ and Family Diversity Issues

The number and quality of books that address gender and family diversity issues have dramatically increased over the past decade.

Picture books are can effective way to show children that there are many types of families.

readRead!
Read Harvey, Jennifer Winter (2013). And Tango Makes Three: Introducing Family Diversity to Children. Children & Libraries, 27-33.

LGBTQ characters have become the protagonists in mainstream works for children and young adults rather than being relegated to secondary roles.

In an article focusing on the growth of YA literature, CJ Bott (2012) interviewed Nancy Garden author of Annie on my Mind (1982). Garden stated

"We’ve gone from not having gay or lesbian (or bisexual or transgender) main characters to having them regularly, plus a suddenly growing, albeit small, number of transgender protagonists, and—still rarely—an occasional bisexual one.

We’ve gone from almost all White protagonists to a growing number of African American and Hispanic ones, and a handful of main characters from other ethnic groups.

We’ve gone from telling primarily coming-out stories—which I think will always be important in our books—to stories also focusing on other aspects of LGBTQ kids’ lives and touching on more universal themes.

We’ve gone from very solemn stories to those sprinkled with welcome humor....

I am optimistic about its future, especially since LGBT adults in general have become increasingly conscious of the problems our youth still face—and some of those adults are bound to be writers, editors, and publishers who know how much books can help validate, encourage, and support beleaguered kids. " - Nancy Garden

two boysStonewall Book Awards honor exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience. There's a children and young adult category. Some examples of past winners include:

For more ideas, go to the Rainbow Book List.

readRead!
Read Subramaniam, Mega; Rebecca Oxley, and Christie Kodama (2013). School Librarians as Ambassadors of Inclusive Information Access for Students with Disabilities. School Library Research, 16.

annieAnnette's Anecdotes
I have many friends and family members who are GLBT. This doesn't make me an expert, but it does make me more aware of the challenges they face.

Recently, I read the wonderful graphic novel Drama (2012) by Raina Telgemeier. I could relate to the protagonist who is a high school drama geek like I was. One thing I enjoyed about the book was the way it explored the real-world of teen gender questioning and exploration in a way that wasn't "in your face". Instead, it was just a logical component of a great graphic novel.

While I enjoy novels where GLBT issues are up front and central to the plot, I see a need for more works that seamlessly weave diversity into the characters and storylines.

Evaluation of Books that Represent Diversity

It’s important that multicultural and international books for youth provide a multidimensional rather than a stereotypical view. Stereotypes are simplified, biased views of a particular group such as Jews are rich business people or African Americans are poor inner city people. A broad spectrum of people exist within a particular ethnic group. Both negative and positive behaviors are exhibited by all groups.

From dialects in story dialogue to the specifics of eating habits, the details of the daily life of the group represented should be accurately portrayed.

When thinking about diversity, be sure to consider language. As you select books, think about your audience. While most of the children coming to your library probably speak English, they may speak other languages at home. If you have a large Spanish-speaking population, think about books for youth you may offer in the Spanish language edition.

Below are some criteria to consider when selecting books:

readRead!
Read Six Questions to Ask About A Story in Mitali's Fire Escape blog. Her series of blog postings focus on questions to ask about diversity in stories for youth.

For more ideas regarding diversity and race in children's books, read the Lee & Low Books blog.

Resources

Bott, CJ (2012). ALAN and YA Lit—Growing Up Together. ALAN Review, 39(2). Available: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v39n2/bott.html

Curwood, Jen Scott (2013). Redefining Normal: A Critical Analysis of (Dis)ability in Young Adult Literature. Children’s Literature in Education, 44, 15–28.

Dudek, Debra (2011). Multicultural. In, P. Nel & L. Paul, Keywords for Children’s Literature. NYU Press. Available: http://books.google.com/books?id=P3mLbIFas50C

East, Kathy & Thomas, Rebecca L. (2007). Across Cultures: A Guide to Multicultural Literature for Children. Libraries Unlimited. Available as eBook through IUPUI.

Scholastic (2014) . How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books. Available: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/how-choose-best-multicultural-books

Martin, Michelle (2011). African American. In, P. Nel & L. Paul, Keywords for Children’s Literature. NYU Press. Available: http://books.google.com/books?id=P3mLbIFas50C

Menchetti, Bruce, Plattos, Gina, & Carroll, Pamela S. (2011). The Impact of Fiction on Perceptions of Disability. ALAN Review, 39(2), 56-66. Available: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v39n1/pdf/menchetti.pdf

Meyer, Abbye E. (2013). “But she’s not retarded”: Contemporary Adolescent Literature Humanizes Disability but Marginalizes Intellectual Disability. Children's Literature Association Quarterly, 38(3), 267-283.

Tunnell, Michael O., Jacobs, James S., Young, Terrell A., & Bryan, Gregory (2012). Children’s Literature, Briefly. Fifth Edition. Pearson.


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