As the primary book curator in our household I have set out over the last few years on a mission to create a diverse library of books and resources for my sons. They are biracial and I have always felt it was important to see people in their books that look like and reflect them and people of the world. Building a diverse library is an intentional decision to share a representation of people of the world to your children. The goal being to introduce your children to BIPOC through books in addition to their real life experiences.
Today I’m sharing just a few tips and things to consider when creating your own diverse library.
A great place to start this journey is to do a quick inventory of the books currently in your child’s library.
Most children tend to have shelves full of books with animals or characters who look like them. Adding diversity to your shelves will take more effort, but it is worth it. Something you may notice when you start this journey is the startling difference of books available centering or written by BIPOC.
This chart represents recent data from 2019 of the publications of children’s books with BIPOC main characters. Data on books by and about people of color and from First/Native Nations published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. This data is not meant to deter you as there are many great books available, but to give you a sense of why you will have to work a little harder to create a diverse library.
Once you have made the decision to intentionally create a diverse library here are a few things to consider. These aren’t a hard fast set of categories, but rather a guide to help curate a diverse library that is well rounded. Visit me here for lists of books I recommend in each of these categories.
Books about race and racism: These books openly discuss skin tone, race, or racism. As with any books you read to or with your children I advise especially in this category that you pre read them. These books are a great way to open conversations with your children about race at any age.
Diverse picture books: These books show people of various races doing everyday things like going to school, learning to tie their shoes, talking about food etc. These books are great as a way to incorporate diversity. They are also the easiest to find and are generally more common.
BIPOC main character books: Taking it to the next level is to look for books with BIPOC as the main character. These can be picture books, chapter books, graphic novels etc.
BIPOC main character chapter books: These books have Black main characters and are chapter books.
Nonfiction texts about BIPOC or real events: This category includes real life stories about BIPOC or events related to BIPOC.
YA (young adult) books: These books can include fiction and nonfiction books about BIPOC as main characters or real life events.
A final consideration when creating your diverse library is to consider using “ownvoice” texts. According to Brodart Books #ownvoices is a hashtag movement, started on Twitter, used to recommend books about diverse characters that have been written by authors from that same diverse group. These books will speak with greater accuracy and authority on a given topic. Read here to learn more about #ownvoice.
When I use the term “library” I am not implying that you have to buy all the books! Our Palm Beach County Public Library system carries a lot of diverse titles and their hold system is the things dreams are made of. I see a book online, log in to the library page, then click and it is put on hold. They let me know when it is ready and bam diverse books on our shelves. It’s also a great way to try different books before you purchase your family’s favorites.
It is never too late to add diversity to your shelves or life. Enjoy creating your diverse libraries and I hope you and your children enjoy them as much as my boys and I do ours.