That’s not just opinion, Melanie Koss of the Northern Illinois University Department of Literacy and Elementary Education will tell you: It’s scientific “fact.” A press release at the university’s website notes that Koss, who is herself lily white, reviewed 455 children’s pictures books published in 2012 to measure their representation of diversity.
Her findings, published in the latest Journal of Children’s Literature, reveal that the “majority” of that year’s picture books for children featured white people as the primary culture. The article quantifies that majority as 45%. It’s been a long time since I took fifth-grade math, but I seem to recall that a quantity needed to be above 50% to constitute a majority. Then again, I never enjoyed the benefits of Common Core math, so maybe I’m mistaken.
The conclusion Koss arrives at is that “young readers of color [are made] to feel that they do not matter or even that ‘to be white is to be better.'” Hmm, I could see that idea catching on as a Twitter hashtag: #YoungReadersOfColorMatter.
Koss amplifies on her findings, stating:
People want to read about themselves. But if you never see yourself in a book, what does that tell you about how you are valued? You’re not. We still have a long way to go. Seeing diverse populations in children’s literature needs to become the norm, not the exception.
The claim that “people want to read about themselves” is commonplace among liberals, but if there were wholesale validity to that notion, why would anyone travel, learn about other cultures, or study world literature? Besides, isn’t seeing people who look like you in a book precisely the scourge Koss is combating and wouldn’t it in any case run counter to goal of diversity?
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