The Power of Literature: Representing Children in Books

While discussing with Susan Burton about the many different aspects of poverty, charity, and advocacy we also began to recognize that racism is a definitive factor as well as the others.  After more discussion, Burton brought out a large selection of children’s books.  Not just any children’s books; these books featured children of color.  Now Burton herself isn’t of African American descent, but her two adopted daughters are and because of this she is extremely diligent about what and whom she brings into her household.  This includes the kind of books that she purchases, explaining that America has normalized “whiteness.”  This means that in a world that has become increasingly multicultural over the years, the media has remained the same.  Children are growing up surrounded by micro racism manifesting itself in their books, tv, and music.  It has gotten to a point of normalcy for children of color not to see a person that looks like them in the media and even at school.

The image below is of a book that I read at my elementary school as third grader, and just recently purchased in Washington DC at the age of 18.  It is a wonderful book and one that has stuck with me through the years, however it has never been available at conventional bookstores.  Years later on a one week trip to Washington DC with Micah Corps on my day off, I finally found the book at the National Smithsonian Museum of American History of all places. It’s called The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton. It is not a banned book, nor a controversial book, but a book about slavery and the wish for freedom.

Pursuing the IMG_1972children’s books section at any bookstore will reveal many lovely works of literature. However I have made it my personal goal to curate a collection of children’s books that reveal the multicultural world we live in.  My major being elementary education, I know that someday I will have a classroom full of the children of God.  They need to know that they are loved unconditionally no matter appearance, religion, or gender.  Books may seem like a very small detail and that would be a correct assumption, but books have a way of sticking with you through the years.  Only in books can a child travel to different worlds without leaving the couch.  Through their pages a child can become anyone, so let’s give them the tools they need for years of exploration. By representing children of all backgrounds and races in the literature they’re exposed to we show them that they are normal. Equality can begin with something as simple as a children’s book.  Open doors, open minds, open hearts; it all starts with the little things in life.

– Brookelyn Brown


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