What Parents *Should* Do

In Please Stop Parenting My Children, I asked others to stop providing unsolicited parenting advice, especially when that advice related to what books my children should not read.

However, right now, I will provide my own unsolicited parenting advice to families. It’s advice that I believe is not only good for families, but also good for our society and the world:

Read

By “diverse books,” I mean literature that features individuals who come from underrepresented racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as literature that features gender minorities and individuals with disabilities.

This advice is most important for those parents who live in communities blighted by homogeneity. The United States Supreme Court ended race-based restrictive covenants on real estate in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) and declared segregated schools to be illegal in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), but well over a half a century later, Americans still live in residentially segregated communities and send their children to racially segregated schools. For children in this unfortunate situation, their first exposure to diversity may be through books.

Fictional playmates from diverse backgrounds should not be a substitute for real-life playmates from diverse backgrounds, but it’s a start. As research suggests, this start may well result in more empathetic children who see the value of diversity.

Hopefully, these books will bring us closer to someday achieving Martin Luther King’s dream in which individuals are not “judged by the color of their skin”– and I will add, their gender status, whom they love, or any other characteristic beyond their control — “but by the content of their character.”

It’s 2016, and we’re not there yet.

If you’re looking for a place to start, here are a few of my favorite children’s books featuring diverse characters and themes:

I hope your family enjoys these books as much as my family has.

 

20 thoughts on “What Parents *Should* Do

  1. Pingback: Another Shift? We’ll Know For Sure In November – The Misfortune Of Knowing

  2. Wonderful! I make sure I get our god-daughter, who lives in a very monocultural area, as diverse books as I can, and do the same with our young niece and nephew.

      1. I pick up books by the lovely new independent publisher, Fisherton Press – their books are diverse without being preachy or clumsy. Other than that, I tend to just look for stuff with diverse people on the front cover. I love the Hairy McLairy books about the dogs because, although they’re obviously dogs, they’re large and small, different colours, different personalities, always accepted!

  3. This is such a great post! And it’s so true – diverse books are so important. I definitely agree that reading (especially about diverse characters) is important for developing empathy. It’s another reason why I think reading to one’s kids is so important. Thanks for sharing your opinions!

    1. Thank you! I certainly hope there will be even more diverse books out there than we have right now. They are such important tools for breaking down stereotypes.

  4. Such a great post, Amal and such important advice! I believe diverse media can really make the difference between empathy and apathy or ignorance.
    When I was young I was happy to find great girls in lit, but ones that looked like me? Forget it. So happy to find more of them now and even of I don’t read kid’s lit often, I always recommend the Gaither Sisters, middle grade Fiction and book1 is One Crazy Summer.

  5. I agree, diversity is paramount in this divided world today. I am beginning to fear how polarizing things are getting. Kids are not that way until they see it as an example in their own families. Books open their minds to the differences and what is the same across all cultures.

  6. This was a wonderful and thoughtful post, Amal. Thanks for writing it.
    “Read diverse book. Read them to yourself. And read them to your children.” This is a powerful statement and so very necessary that parents practice it.

  7. I love that phrase, “communities blighted by homogeneity.” Having grown in a community like that, I’ve felt that lack of diversity hampered my social education. I second your idea that reading books by writers of many backgrounds, cultures, and communities can help to make us more empathetic.

  8. jodycarr

    A tangential issue, and one that I wrestle with as a writer: can I, should, may I ….. write a novel with a “diverse” main character even though I am as white and upper class as they come?

    1. You point out an issue that comes around frequently in my writing community. Authors are sometimes accused of marginalizing others for profit (for instance, writing about gay characters when they are straight) or not properly writing characters different from themselves. Unless the book focuses on race, orientation, or other issues that might require firsthand knowledge or specific research, I don’t see a problem. People are people.

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