Books help to shape our thinking and perspectives—this is true for children and adults.
It’s essential to be intentional about book choices if you want to harness the opportunity to promote inclusion, self-affirmation and equity through children’s literature. Choosing books featuring characters or by authors from equity-seeking groups is a realistic and crucial action you can take.
There are many excellent books available that explicitly teach kids about anti-racism, anti-oppression and inclusion. You can also choose books that feature Black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC) and where the character’s race isn’t necessarily central to the plot. Look for books that promote positive images, not reinforce negative stereotypes.
If you read children’s books – to your students, children, grandkids, or other children in your life, you may have noticed that, most often, the lead characters are either white or animals.
Here are some stats to ponder: an analysis of children’s books published in 2020 shows that 12 per cent were about Black characters, and only 1.5 percent were about Indigenous characters. It’s shocking but perhaps not surprising sadly and underscores why you need to make deliberate choices.
Credit: Data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
It’s no secret how important the early years and childhood are to learning and development. Introducing young readers to books with diverse characters promotes acceptance, respect and empathy for others. Reading can help children learn to appreciate the range of perspectives and identities in their classrooms and communities.
Many websites compile booklists with children’s books that showcase diversity and are written by diverse authors. Here are some options to check out:
Love of Literature offers an online book club for Black youth. They publish their book recommendations on their website by age range so you can check out what their reading each session for book ideas. Full disclosure, Love of Literature was founded by RTOERO’s marketing and communications manager, Danielle Norris. We’re proud of her work!
CBC compiled a list of children’s books by and about Indigenous people.
CBC asked librarians across Canada to recommend books for children age 8 to 13 that touch on or explore gender identity and sexuality.
Your local librarian should be able to help you choose books with positive and diverse lead characters.
*available in French
When possible, try to purchase books from local bookstores and consider looking for bookstores with Black or Indigenous owners. This is another easy action that can help support equity-seeking people and groups.
Our diversity, equity and inclusion work is embedded in our strategic plan and tied to our advocacy work. Sharing learning and information with our members and others is part of our effort to help promote equity and inclusion across Canada. Explore more posts about equity and inclusion.