multicultural storytelling for kids

I’m a big fan of Mitali Perkins. I loved her workshop on incorporating multicultural characters into the books we write at last year’s SCBWI Western Washington conference, so when I came upon this terrific discussion over at The Reading Tub I thought I’d share it. The powerful idea of windows and mirrors, Mitali’s tidy way of expressing that books give young readers a window into a world and a reflection of themselves, is one that will stay with me.

The discussion is between three authors, Tanita Davis, of Fiction Instead of Lies and Finding Wonderland; Hannah Ehrlich of Lee & Low Books; and Mitali Perkins, who writes at Mitali’s Fire Escape. Here is an excerpt:

Last June as Mitali was talking, I was thinking about books like Burn My Heart and Web of Lies (both by South African author Beverley Naidoo) and how much I learned from them. The former is about the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya; the latter about Nigerian refugees forced to flee to London.

Put bluntly, I want to have a better understanding literacy across cultures and find ways to engage new readers by celebrating their cultural heritage and also to continue enlightening mine. It is a conscious effort on my part, and as I recently found out, it’s not going to be easy. I went to a big-box bookstore to buy some books my daughter could give a classmate at his birthday party. The Children’s Books rep asked if she could help, and I said I was looking for books for an African American boy. He likes sports, and I wanted to find characters of color in books appropriate for a nine-year-old. Her response?

We repeatedly have asked publishers to give us books that are more reflective of society … there are more girls of color than boys, particularly when you want to go beyond Civil War / slavery / urban references. The 8 to 10 group is particularly difficult.

Read the complete post here, at Scrub a Dub Tub, a terrific blog on reading and literacy for kids and families.


About Tina Hoggatt

I am an artist and writer and work for 4Culture, King County's cultural arts organization.
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