Meet the 12-year-old trailblazer fighting for equality in kids’ books – Salon
“I thought that was a very big problem,” she says of being assigned books that featured mainly white men and boys, “because kids don’t experience the same thing.”
Kathleen Horning, the director of Cooperative Children’s Book Center, which documents the number of books by and about people of color, found in 2013 that of the 650 young adult fiction books it tracked that year about humans, only 36 featured people of color as the main character, about five percent of the total. Two years later in 2015, the organization found eight percent of children’s books featured African Americans as main characters, less than one percent Native American, three percent Asian Pacific, and over 73 percent white characters. Twelve percent featured “animals, trucks, etc.” which shows there were more kids’ books being published about inanimate objects than about people of color.
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Several organizations are trying to address the disparity, including Writing in the Margins, which mentors emerging writers and We Need Diverse Books, which advocates for change in the publishing industry. Its co-founder Dhonielle Clayton, who was a librarian for six years, said she wouldn’t have been able to fill one shelf of books that featured children of color as the main characters. One student, a girl of color, asked Dhonielle to pick out a book for her about a witch, one who looked like she did, and Clayton couldn’t find one.
“We’re looking at stereotyping and erasure as a form of censure in children’s books. You can see how children’s books are a form of programming in this country,” she says.