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Coalition Develops Multi-Cultural Booklist: Seeks Book Donations for Local Preschools & Libraries


Given the movement in our country to address systemic racism, the Coalition was asked by one of our members to develop a recommended book list to help raise children without bias and sensitize them to social justice issues. Having developed recommended children’s reading lists for bullying prevention and children’s mental health, the Coalition’s volunteer book reviewers took to the task this summer.

Reviewers, who are educators, social workers, and avid readers, were eager to work on the project as they recognized “seeking out and reading children’s books that focus on Black and Indigenous People and People of Color (BIPOC) is a great way to open conversations with children and build their cultural awareness and understanding,“ said long-time Coalition member and retired special educator Andréa Martin. However, “we quickly learned that books featuring BIPOC characters were hard to find. Children’s books with white characters far outnumber books with BIPOC,” she said. In fact, according to 2018 statistics published by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that tracks the percentage of books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds, only 1% of books portrayed characters from Native Americans/First Nations, 5% showed Latinx characters, 7% depicted Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 10% featured African Americans. 50% of books showed white characters.

In reviewing books, Coalition volunteers used a standard rubric, developed from the work of internationally respected anti-bias educator Louise Derman-Sparks and SocialJusticeBooks.org.

Reviewers applied the following guiding principles in choosing books:
Stereotypes: Books should depict people compassionately as real human beings, both in the text and the illustrations.

Tokenism: Regularly seeing only one person of any racial group teaches children about who is more or less important. This is the “one only” message

Invisibility: What children do not see in their books also teaches them about who matters and who doesn’t in our society.

Story Line & Relationships: Even if a book shows visual diversity, the story line may carry biases related to how  it handles power relationships among people of various identities.

The recommended Celebrate Diversity! titles
• Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox (ages 2-3)
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers (ages 2-3)
Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children (ages 2-3)
Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin (ages 2-5)
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard (ages 3-6)
All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color by Katie Kissinger (ages 3-6)
We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Kates (ages 3-7)
Are Your Stars Like My Stars? by Leslie Helakoski (ages 4-7)
Under My Hijab by Hena Kahn (ages 4-7)
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (ages 4-7)
Milo’s Museum by Zetta Elliot (ages 4-7)
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown (ages 4-8)
I’m Gonna Push Through by Jasmyn Wright (ages 4-8)
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold (ages 4-8)
The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin (ages 4-8)
The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler (ages 4-8)
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 5-8)
Can I Touch Your Hair?:Poems of Race,Mistakes,& Friendship by Irene Latham & Charles Waters (ages 8-12)
Dictionary for a Better World:Poems,Quotes,& Anecdotes from A-Z by Irene Latham & Charles Waters (ages 8-12)

Titles to Foster Social Justice
Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins (ages 4-8)
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Anne Hazzard, PhD Marianne Celano, PhD, and Marietta Collins, PhD (ages 4-8)
Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson (ages 6-12)
Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anasthasia Higginbotham (ages 8-12)

“As we read these books, we found it important to check our own biases, thoughts and feelings before we could discuss them with each other,” noted Coalition reviewer Danielle Stewart. “This is an important reflection as we consider sharing these books with our children,” she added.

“We also recognize that we are still learning and welcome any and all feedback. You can reach Danielle Stewart at dstewart@southcountyhealth.org or at 401-788-2373 to provide thoughts and opinions about the Coalition’s booklist.  To download copy of list, click here.

Coalition seeks donations to add these books to shelves of local preschools and libraries
To assure these titles are read widely by children in our community, the Coalition is seeking donations (either funding to purchase these titles or hard cover copies of these books) to distribute to area child care centers, preschools, and libraries. Donations can be sent or dropped off at our office at 14 Woodruff Ave., Suite 9, Narragansett, RI. Our recommended reading list will be circulated to local school departments, libraries, outreach programs and early care & education programs.

Special thanks to the volunteer reviewers that made this list a reality and AmeriCorps service member Allison Landis who managed the project.



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