One of my favorite expressions is, “We cannot become what we do not see.” I feel that it succinctly speaks to the importance of representation. When we do not see ourselves reflected in spaces, whether it be politics or media or literature (or anything else), it becomes harder to see ourselves navigating through those areas. It isn’t impossible, but there is certainly a level of comfort in knowing that someone else has opened the door to a new possibility.
As it pertains to literature, it is imperative that children of color see themselves reflected in the pages of books. Reading stories set in their communities, with challenges they face, and a dialogue with vernacular that mirrors their own makes a world of difference. It validates their experiences. Even in instances of books that don’t directly reflect their life, children can still learn about what other people of color go through. For example, I loved the Logan family stories by Mildred D. Taylor when I was growing up. Let the Circle be Unbroken, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and The Road to Memphis were some of my favorite books. All of those stories were set many years before I was born, taking place in a Southern town that was far from my hometown of Washington, DC, and featured a large immediate family that I never had. Still, I loved reading about a Black family that triumphed over their challenges. The love of family was something I understood clearly. The racism they endured was something I studied in school. So those books held a special place in my heart.
When you hear someone say we need more diversity in books, please understand that the need is extremely real. It is something that will help young people inform their sense of self and influence how they see the world. Book Lovers, how can you commit to ensuring that young people have access to diverse books?