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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

The "other" in books for children

November 18, 2010

We've come a long way but there's still more to do to change attitudes about books for children — especially books by or about those with other than European heritages.

A recent op-ed piece by noted writer, Nikki Grimes, reminded me of that. At a library conference, Nikki was appalled to hear that some people who liked her books said they wouldn't get them as they didn't serve enough African American students. Her response was to emphasize that a good book is simply a good book for anyone.

What can and does literature do for readers? It provides a glimpse into other experiences vicariously; it can provide a fresh way of looking and seeing the world around us — and more, much more.

It's been said that literature — especially for children — provides a mirror for them to see themselves reflected and perhaps validated as well as a window through which they can see other perspectives.

We certainly live in a hypersensitive era where it appears that a seemingly minor misstep can cause a huge brouhaha. It becomes especially apparent as Thanksgiving approaches — how do you handle native people in books for young children? What about Columbus? (Take a look at information on Colorín Colorado for insight and ideas.)

Becoming aware of and sensitive to others must begin in childhood. It takes time and education and awareness. And even if children live in homogeneous communities, they can meet different kinds of people through books.


I agree that children can and should be exposed to many different types of people through books, but I am so tired of children book authors overstepping this line! By this I mean pushing a book about a specific topic (say homosexuality) just to EXPOSE young children to this concept. As a reading specialist, I buy a children's book because it is a great book...I do not buy it because it is about Kwanzaa and I don't have a book about Kwanzaa.

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