People from minority cultures are underrepresented in colleges, corporate C suite, and our government. Could this stem from lack of representation in children’s books? First Book — a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing educational equity — builds its work on research that shows kids feel valued and validated when they see their own experiences reflected on the pages of books. They become more engaged and enthusiastic readers, a critical step to succeeding in school and in life. However, last year when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied 3500 children’s books, they found that only 25% are about people of color. As if that weren’t bad enough, there are hundreds more children’s books featuring animals as characters than people of color, or from different cultures, religions, and experiences.
In this episode, we talk to two women from two organizations that work to make diversity and inclusion more prevalent in children’s books. Yukari Matsuyama is the Cataloging Manager for First Book, including its Stories for All Project, which is the largest worldwide collection of diverse content curated for children in need. Hena Khan, a children’s book author herself, has written titles published by the Salaam Reads division of Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, an initiative dedicated to telling culturally inclusive stories about Muslim children and families in published works.
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- Through a sustainable, market-driven model, First Book is creating affordable access to quality education for its member network of more than 350,000 educators who exclusively serve kids in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 170 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in more than 30 countries. With an additional 1,000 educators joining each week, First Book is the largest and fastest-growing network of educators in the United States exclusively serving kids in need.
- Founded in 2016, Salaam Reads is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Books that aims to introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works. The imprint, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “peace,” plans to publish books for young readers of all ages, including picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult.