Diversity in children’s books is a big issue, but there are books that deal with children of all kinds, whether different in ability, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. Or some combination of any or all of those differences.
Four books that made me say “Wow!” recently:
- Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed – This story of a Southeast Asian- American girl’s being forced into marriage by her conservative immigrant parents was impossible to put down.
- Girls Like Us by Gail Giles – Two “Speddies” become room-mates after graduation, facing past and present prejudice and violence, but ultimately gaining friendship and hope.
- Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate – While some folks may say this doesn’t count as a diverse book, I’d say that the working poverty of its protagonist’s family makes it diverse. All too often, children’s books feature protagonists with plenty of money – or the extreme opposite.
- Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia. Like I said last week, oh my! The Gaither sisters visit their beloved Big Ma in Alabama, confronting both the realities of the American South in the late 1960’s and difficult family relationships (their own and those of their great-grandmother and great-aunt).
All of these books were excellent in their own way, and each could be used successfully with a curriculum that requires students to read fiction about social issues. For readers who are mature enough, Girls Like Us in particular would be a great read instead of the ever-popular Wonder and Out of My Mind.
Here’s to books that make a difference!