Written By Brittany Johnson
I am a Latina raising mixed children. My daughters, Haven and Harlow, are African American, Hispanic, and White. They have thick dark curls and brown skin. When you think of Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella, you do not picture my daughters. You imagine fair skin, blue eyes, and blonde hair. Society has reinforced this image in our heads. When our children are young, they rely on picture books and movies to guide their imaginations. When you think of a princess or a fairy, what do you see?
My daughter Haven is four years old and when the movie “Moana” came out, she beamed with excitement. She looked at me and said “Mommy she looks like me!”. When we create and expose our children to diverse content, they thrive. Their imagination and creativity grow. If my daughter had only seen Cinderella, she would not have thought she could be a princess that gets to put on a big dress and go to the ball. Could I tell her that she can do these things? Of course. But as a young child, actually seeing someone that looks like her in books makes those thoughts and statements all the more a reality for her. A study done in 2012 showed that 93% of children’s books were about or centered around a white main character. That leaves only 7% to display Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
Representation in children’s books (and all books for that matter) truly makes a difference in the lives of young readers. Making personal connections to content boosts a reader’s ability to effectively comprehend the information. There are various types of skin tones, hair textures, and facial features in our world. Why not represent that beauty in children’s books? We are not carbon copies of one another. It is our differences, both physically and emotionally, that make this world so uniquely beautiful. So, write about these differences and expose your children to diverse text as soon as possible. You never know who you may inspire.