Despite the progress made in achieving racial equality so far, our post on ‘Diversity in
Children’s Books From 2012 to 2020’ revealed that children’s books still lack
diversity. Recent statistics show that only 12% of children’s picture books represent
Black protagonists, 9% represent Asians, 6% represent Latinxs, and only 3% of them
represent children with disabilities. We can then see how people of color and the
minority remain underrepresented in children’s books, especially as protagonists.
To amplify the reach of culturally diverse children’s books, here are five empowering
books that feature or were written by people of color.
Mae Among the Stars
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed tells the real-life story of Mae Jemison, the
first African American woman in space. The story revolved around the life of young
Mae as she took on the journey to become an astronaut. Despite being discouraged by
her teachers at school, her supportive parents have strengthened her desire to achieve
her dreams no matter what happens. Cindy Pabon claims that Mae Among the
Stars will continue to inspire young children to achieve whatever they set their minds
to as long as they believe and work hard to attain it.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio follows the life of August Pullman, who was born with a facial difference, as he goes through the journey of acceptance and self-love. Since he’s never been the one to socialize with other kids, the thought of not being liked by his peers because of his facial features prevented Auggie from going to school. However, the time has come for him to face this obstacle and learn valuable lessons along the way. RJ Palacio’s Wonder sends a powerful message about how it’s okay to be different, and being different from others is what makes us unique. While not a completely novel theme, coming from a point-of-view of a person of color like Palacio, there are more layers and nuance to the main character’s insights of what it’s like to not look like everybody else.
Tomatoes For Neela
Padma Lakshmi’s Tomatoes For Neela is a personal story of her childhood memories with her mother in the kitchen. The story’s protagonist, Neela, loves to cook and write recipes with her mother. Every Saturday, they buy tomatoes at the green market and create wonderful memories in the kitchen by bonding over their love for food together. The book warmly showed how our family is a significant part of our lives, especially in shaping our cultural identity, and how food can help us connect with our culture and others. Tomatoes For Neela assured us that we can find strength and comfort in family and tradition.
Hair Love is a story by Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison, which celebrates the power of a father’s love for his daughter. Zuri is a young girl whose hair has a mind of its own. It coils and curls in every direction, but her father always ensures that her hair is naturally beautiful on extra special occasions, although he has a lot to learn about hair styling. The authors successfully conveyed how a father’s love can instill self-confidence in their children through the simple actions they do. Hair Love also showed readers that our natural hair is a part of who we are, which makes us beautiful whatever style and type it is.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz delves into the story of two Mexican-American teenagers, Aristotle and Dante, as they form a special kind of friendship that will challenge what they know about themselves and each other. Although they are two opposing characters, their newfound friendship made them realize that maybe they’re not so different from each other. A review by Julia’s Books discussed how the book perfectly explores the pains and wonders of growing up. It’s a book for children struggling with confused feelings about parents, family, culture, identity, sexuality, friendship, and their place in the world.