My Mirror

This week we are charged in our lit class to respond to a couple articles.  One relates to the connections (mirrors and/or windows) children, and I think adults, can make to the stories they are reading–or the lack of connections based on the content available in those stories.  The second article addresses the ridiculous lack of minority authors, characters, and books–and how publishing companies contribute to this fault.

As a public school teacher, I struggled to have a “diverse” library in my classroom.  For some reason, when I began teaching, I imagined that we lived in a time that I would have no trouble finding oodles of books with characters of every background, learning ability, gender, and personality.  I was wrong.  I could find historical or historical fiction books on a few subjects, but not all.  I struggled to find modern, everyday books that carried a real level of diversity.  Isn’t the point to be so diverse that the word doesn’t even have to mean anything anymore?  How can that ever happen if teachers in 2015 can’t buy books that depict this?

It just so happens that this week I was trying to find a good video online to start teaching my son music history.  I wanted something that would start be a summary of 1900 to today, and highlight the main contributions to music and how music has changed.  The result was me spending three hours online until the wee hours of the morning–so frustrated with society and the sheer idiocy of people throughout history which seems to keep repeating itself.  When a few white music bigwigs were smart enough to sign and record some of the black artists whose music was phenomenal by the standards of the other music available at the time as well as now, the other record companies got white kids to record the exact same songs.  They weren’t as good, obviously, but kept talented black artists from ever rising up.  Even when they did, there was a great effort to keep them down.

This is a quote from one of the articles (the link to it is below)…

“For publishers, it’s a business. And they’re publishing for how they feel the market is defined,” says Kathleen Horning, director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies and compiles data about books for kids.

Of the 5,000 children’s books published every year, no more than 5 percent are written by or about blacks, Asians, Latinos or Native Americans, Horning says.  Last year, the center catalogued 172 picture books, novels and nonfiction books published that were about Africans or African-Americans.  Of those, 83 were written or illustrated by blacks.

Horning says that despite the growing diversity in classrooms, there hasn’t been much change in the industry, which has few editors of color. “Children just are not seeing themselves in children’s books,” Horning says.

Publishers are loathe to talk publicly about whether they ignore black readers.”

Is this not going down the same road as the music companies?  I mean–what the hell is wrong with people?  Do we really have to fight this battle over and over again?  Can’t people just be people and music be music and books be books?

Sometimes I wonder how and what to teach my son about the world he lives in.


3 thoughts on “My Mirror

  1. I think that every teacher struggles with having a “diverse” library in their class. I do not remember having a huge diversity of books in my class when I was in school. I am not even sure we have a huge diversity in our library. I find this really sad because I think that students deserve to have that diversity of books to read while in school.


  2. I can understand you frustration on trying but failing to find such diverse material. A lot of information is hard to find good presentation like books, etc.

    It’s pretty easy to find a million resources on some specific subjects though, like George Washington, haha.


  3. You name a key problem here: it’s easy to find history and historical fiction but very hard to find contemporary stories. Children of color shouldn’t only find positive stories about themselves set in the past or set in the context of struggle. (Think how many children’s books about African-Americans are either about Civil Rights or slavery.) And you name another key issue: how are we supposed to educate our children about the world as it really is if we don’t have books that depict that world accurately?


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