Black Children Are Not Historical Figures: The Importance of Representation in Children’s Books.

I am a public school teacher in Washington, DC. A few years ago I wanted to teach a lesson about brain science for my young students.  To my surprise, I couldn’t find a single children’s storybook that told the story I wanted to tell, and there were certainly no books on the topic that reflected the diversity of the children in my classroom.

So I wrote, illustrated and published the book I needed myself.   When it came to creating the characters in the story all I had to do was look out at my students.  My students are a diverse mix representing cultures from all over the world from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan to Ethiopia to Denmark from Guatemala to Iceland, as well as many kids both black and white born right here in DC. 

I decided to choose students that I don’t normally see in children’s books.  Students like Yoab whose family is from Ethiopia, or Tyaja whose family is from DC, or Sergio whose family is from El Salvador and Guatemala.  In DC our schools are filled with young black and brown children – in fact 78% of children in DC are children of color. But our school bookshelves don’t reflect that reality.

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