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Friday, November 19, 2010

Finding Diversity in the Library

One of the reasons I have over 80 emails from y'all sitting in my inbox, unanswered, is because we gleefully sent off - this! morning! - our FINAL immigration paperwork update. It feels so good to have everything done except for USCIS fingerprinting and obtaining a passport for the Tongginator, since she and Tonggu Grammy will be coming with us to China.

Yeah, we haven't gotten her a passport yet.

But yes, we have everything we need to GET it done.

(We are lazy, y'all.)

(And really, after four years... what's the rush???)

Another reason over 80 emailed comments are sitting in my inbox, unanswered, is because I've made a new friend. (I love making new friends!) You see, I've been volunteering quite a lot at the Tongginator's elementary school library. And Mrs. Librarian and I are truly getting along, especially after she started asking me how I find the many multicultural books that pepper our home bookshelves. Mrs. Librarian came to the school just three years ago and - truly - has done a fabulous job making the book selection more diverse, but... well... she says it's been a long haul in that regard. First off, she didn't have much to start with. And second, there aren't a lot of resources out there for her to utilize. It's difficult to purchase a book sight-unseen, so if other libraries, stores or book fairs don't carry it...

I love that she finds this important.

Which means I now love her.

Yesterday I brought in about 30 of our family's favorite multicultural picture books, so that Mrs. Librarian can peruse them and we can chat about them this morning. I also shared some links that I've found helpful as I've built a more diverse book collection for the Tongginator. Last night it occurred to me that perhaps y'all might also find those links helpful. I mean, just in case you don't know about them.

The first thing I found on the web, several years ago, was the list 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know (as well as 30 Every Teen Should Know) created by the Cooperative Children's Book Center out of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The National Education Association (NEA) also published a 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know. There is, of course, some overlap, but unique titles exist on each list. These are wonderful lists to check out, especially if you are starting from scratch.

Then I also stumbled onto the Database of Award-Winning Children's Literature (DAWLI) site, which I love just as much as Accelerated Reader. The DAWLI search engine makes it easy to search for books about specific cultures and races. You can also search for books that won specific awards, such as the Asian/ Pacific American Award for Literature, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award and other awards honoring books that somehow promote multiculturalism.

Another helpful site is the Anti-Defamation League's Curriculum Connections, which helps schools develop curriculum that discusses everything from immigration and the immigrant experience to racism and racial diversity to name-calling and bullying. I also love Teacher Vision's list of books, by age, about disabilities, as well as this list of books about the contemporary immigrant experience.

And of course there is the list I put together last year of early readers and easy chapter books featuring Asian and Asian-American characters, as well as my favorites about the Moon Festival and Chinese New Year.

So what do y'all think of diversity within children's literature? Frankly, although the picture book arena has improved by leaps and bounds these past two decades, I've found an appalling lack of diversity in easy readers and not much more in the beginning chapter book selections. How do y'all find diverse book selections? And what do you think of what is available?


Anonymous said...

TM - I LOVE all of these links! Thank you for all this information.

That is awesome Mrs. Librarian is so receptive to obtain more multicultural books for the school's library. I like her too! She is very nice.

Keating Mom said...

Thank you for the great links! And three cheers for Mrs. Librarian!!!

Aus said...

We find diversity in childrens books by 1) buying them while we are in China adopting a child! (Had to say that) and 2) by following links provided by another adoptive parent like you!! And thanks for that - I'll put the boss to work on it in time for Christmas!!

hugs - aus and co.

triona said...

This is fabulous, thank you for sharing! I am definitely getting some of these for my kids.

One thing I wish is that there were more books by adoptees, for adoptees (especially international adoptees). Sarah Park has a lot to say about this.


Anonymous said...

Try KidsCan Press. Anything produced for the Toronto market has to be diverse.

Here's one example:

They do welcome US customers on their site.

Cedar said...

Thanks for the links. We have not been really successful at adding diversity to our book collection, and while I ask for some books from family at Christmas they seem to think I mean AFTER our child is home from China. I'll have to be a little more proactive here, and your links will help a ton with that. Thank you.

Congratulations on finishing some paperwork!

Mary Beth said...

You have provided some wonderful resources! I have a degree in Library Media Education and I am a PAP, so I am very interested in finding books that are multicultural in nature for my children. When I was getting my degree, we had to find books that met certain criteria for diversity, and it was difficult. Especially for students who are ready to move beyond picture books. It is a need for sure. Thanks for sharing your links. I look forward to finding some good books!

MIranda said...

Thanks for the lists! I found a few books that we'll have to add to our collection.

snekcip said...

Being a parent of a African-American child, I have seen the diversity in books expand way more than when I was a child. Back then, they would display somewhere around 15-20 books during the month of February (Black History Month) and it was usually biographies of well-known leaders! To 5-6yr old, that gets well...boring...after reading a page are two. Now we see more "kid-based" books that has characters that resembles MY CHILD and has good uplifting messages and stories entailed! I even found one w/pictures that appeal to a 3yr old that tells all about the history-making people in our culture! I have found a local bookstore that has also has excellent selections that my child truly loves to visit and purchase books!

While teaching her to have pride about her own culture, I love to expose her to other cultures as well! I will definitely look for some of these books in our local library! Thanks for sharing!!

A Beautiful Mess said...


Don't forget to check out Pragmaticmom.com she often has great lists of books that touch on diverse characters and cultures.

Mrs. Olson said...

Thank you for the links. I am a librarian, and a future adoptive momma, and I have struggled finding good books. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the links!

Anonymous said...

I started a list of "diverse" books and planned to post it on my blog but, well, you scooped me in a big, bad way. It will show up eventually, but I clearly have a lot more work to do. A couple weeks ago my mother sent me a few of my books from my childhood. WOW... Mother Goose is scary - but I think everyone knows that. What shocked me is apparently no people of color went to the zoo in the early 70's. While it still isn't great, it is way better now. I don't think you will find many (any?) modern children's books that show large crowd scenes with only white people in them.
Thanks for the links.

Anonymous said...

Wait, just checked out the "50 blah, blah" list, I think my list can actually complement that if someone is specifically looking for books for young toddlers that feature African-American (or African) characters. So I am posting it on the side-bar of my blog, tonight. But I rushed to get it up, so please forgive my typos. semiferalmama.wordpress.com

Anonymous said...

I can think of more chapter books with mice as the main characters than with Asian-American boys as the main characters.