Teaching My Baby To Read

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I want my children to read about diversity

This might seem like a weird thing for a white mother in WA to be worrying about, but…

I want my children to read about diversity.

Last Saturday Grammy took all of her grandchildren to see the Village Theater perform “Big River”.  Every time I encounter Huckleberry Finn I gain new insight.  Hearing him sing was no exception.

“Big River” had some bad words, most especially the bad word that sometimes bans Mark Twain from schools.  But I knew that my son Bruce could handle it, even though he’s just seven.

That’s because we spent all of September reading books about the African American experience.

When I saw the character Jim on stage, trapped in a shed and singing about wanting to fly away, I thought about the stories my son and I read together from The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton.

In the car on the way home from Everett,  Bruce and I had one of those parent-child conversations that you dream about.

But here’s the problem:

I searched and searched for books by African American authors and had a boat-load of trouble finding any.  I don’t know if you can tell from that picture, but four out of ten of those books, are by famous people.  If you are African American, do you need to be a movie star to get a children’s book published?

That’s why when I read the article Will Latino Stories Sell by Laura Lacamara, I was so intrigued.  Is that what’s happening with books about African Americans too?

This is actually a question I’ve been meaning to email Mary Kole, author of Writing Irresistable KidLit for a long time.  (You can read my full review of KidLit here.)  Writing Irresistible KidLit shows a keen analysis of trends happening in the MG and YA market today.  The one thing I didn’t see Mary Kole mention specifically however, was this question I have about the lack of books written by or about African Americans and Latinos.  Has the upswing in the MG/YA market left without them?

If I put my fourth grade teacher hat back on, I know that Christopher Paul Curtis, Mildred Taylor and Gary Soto are master writers.  But where’s everyone else?  I looked and looked and couldn’t find anyone in our library.  Are African American and Latino authors not getting published?

In the picture book market, I keep seeing Amazing Grace everywhere.  Isn’t the author Marry Hoffman a white woman from England?  Don’t get me wrong, I love that book.  But if I was an African American picture book writer from Detroit, I might be a bit miffed.

I understand that publishers need to make money.

So maybe this is what moms like me need to be saying:

I will buy books for my children written by culturally diverse authors!

Who’s with me?


  1. Hal Martin says:

    Thank you for mentioning my article (Will Latino Stories Sell?). I am very passionate about this subject and I am moved to hear that you are, too. I love what you invite all us parents to do: Make a point of buying books for our children that are by culturally diverse authors.
    We can make a difference, but only if we make our voices heard.

    Laura Lacamara

  2. Crimson Wife says:

    Brian Pinkney is African-American and has written a bunch of picture books.

  3. jenbrdsly says:

    Yes! Two of his books, Dear Benjamin Banneker, and Sit-in, are pictured above.

  4. Nicol Montero says:

    I agree with trying to find Latino books written by Latino authors. I don’t know the problem with it, but I have had an extremely hard time finding any. My children are half Latino and I would like for them to have an appreciation and understanding of their culture.

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