Diversity in Literature for Children and Young Adults

Of the titles I chose for my diverse materials, I had only previously read one (The Departure, it was the first Animorphs book I ever read). I had read other books in the other series’ that I chose because I knew the characters were diverse (The Magic Schoolbus and Giants Don’t Go Snowboarding, of the Bailey Schoolkids). I’ve helped students check out books from the Pony Pals and the Fairy series’, so I peripherally knew there was a range of characters in them. I think the most diverse title was Mama Provi, since she interacted with people of so many different heritages and the reader was able to see a little into their lives through the foods they made. Meet Josefina was a good title because it gave a more in-depth view into a culturally-diverse person’s life.

School libraries should represent a broad range of diverse populations, not just of race, but also of gender, sexuality, and disability. Focusing only on the diverse populations within the school is not good if that excludes diverse populations outside of the school. Children need to be exposed to the concept of diversity early on in their lives.

For the most part, diverse books do not have their own special section. They are shelved right out there amongst the other books, because that is how society is, and diversity is everywhere. I think it sends a powerful message to the kids. Children seem to not pick their reading material based on the diversity of the characters in the books, but it is important that diversity is included so that children recognize from the start that differences are normal.

We can promote diversity in reading in libraries in several ways. We can place books with diversity more prominantly on displays and put up posters or about them. We can feature a particular type of diversity, to be determined on a rotating basis each month. We can link similar books, as in, “If you liked this book, you might try…” We can also encourage teachers to pair such books in reading assignments so that the students can compare and contrast the characters and their stories.

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