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:
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:
- Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing
- Francisco X. Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World
- Frederick Lipp’s Tea Leaves
- Jonah Winter & Shane W. Evans’s Lillian’s Right to Vote
- Louise Erdrich’s Chickadee
- Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson’s And Tango Makes Three
- Todd Parr’s The Family Book
I hope your family enjoys these books as much as my family has.