If you have young children (or grandchildren), do they think the world is homogenous—that is, made up entirely of people who look like they do, live like they do, and come from homes and families just like theirs? At some point in their development, they’ll learn it isn’t so, but books can help them learn now.
Books from a multicultural publisher like AcuteByDesign (www.acutebydesign.com), which feature people from different ethnic groups (and perhaps different socioeconomic backgrounds) than your child, can be a great learning tool. While reading a delightful story, they are also absorbing information: People are different the world over—and even here at home. And yet, there is much similarity. Don’t we all want to be loved, to fit in, to enjoy life—no matter the color of our skin?
The original purpose of multicultural books was to offset, for the benefit of children who came from other ethnic backgrounds—primarily African American, but also Native American, Asian, or other ethnic groups—the whitebread sameness of books that featured all Caucasian characters.
But what about these books’ impact on kids from White families, especially White suburban middle class? What did they know about kids and families of color? About Native Americans who live on “the rez”? About others who don’t look like they do or, in some cases, live like they do?
If you’re a Caucasian parent or grandparent, I urge you not to skip over the offerings of books about kids who don’t look like your child. Don’t think, “She can’t relate to a story about a Black kid,” (like the girl who features in The Last Drop of Sunshine or the boy who is at the center of There’s a Tiger in My House; or “an Indian kid,” (like the protagonist of Just Indian), or Latinos (as in Abuelita’s Tree or Moving Day for Alex). That’s the whole point! We WANT our children to know about and be comfortable with kids from different ethnic (and socioeconomic) backgrounds. We want them to grow up to make th
e world a better place.