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“I HATE FICTION!” — Choosing Diverse Books for Particular Readers

Last week Director Krista Aronson and I, as cofounders of the Diverse BookFinder, had the pleasure of joining Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud of EmbraceRace, for a webinar as a follow-up to our action guide on selecting “good” books among those featuring characters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). One of our discussion topics was identifying key criteria to apply when selecting among the growing selection of books, with a particular child in mind.

The particular child I seek books for is my six-year-old grandson Taemin. (His baby sister Yuna also, but right now that’s simpler, mostly finding board books with diverse faces.) As I discussed in the webinar, I look for titles that:

  • support Taemin's exploration of and connection to his Asian, Korean American, and biracial identities;
  • show positive images of Black characters to counter the anti-Blackness that is so predominant in our culture;
  • introduce him to a broad and colorful range of people and cultures;
  • and engage him with adventurous narratives.

As part of my response to being separated from my grandchildren during the pandemic, I’ve been sending Taemin books. But just this past month, I’ve gotten a new challenge: he has decided he’s only interested in nonfiction. When he took one book out of a package recently and saw that it was illustrated like a storybook, he yelled, “Oh no, it’s fiction!” and threw it on the floor. “I hate fiction!”

The book, Over and Under the Pond, is actually nonfiction, and it turns out he really likes it. Whoosh! was a big hit too.

Whoosh!

2016

by Chris Barton and Don Tate

You know the Super Soaker. It's one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy. A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson's life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.

Biography

So how do I keep finding books with positive representation of BIPOC while keeping in mind my grandson’s stated preference for “only nonfiction”? Of course I turned to the Diverse BookFinder.

There are lots of possible ways to search for nonfiction titles in the collection, including filtering by the Biography, Informational, and Race/Culture Concepts "Categories," or doing a keyword search such as “weather” or “building.” Because of my grandson’s bent towards mechanics, engineering, and how things work, as well as the natural world, I chose to start with the "Content" filter for “STEM,” which brought up 194 titles to browse through.

Among those, I easily found a dozen that I think will appeal to him, while continuing to expose him to a wonderfully diverse range of BIPOC characters (see below). As soon as we’re back together, I’ll have a great list of titles to share with him, all of which I can borrow through interlibrary loan if they’re not available in our local library.


Counting on Katherine

2018

by Helaine Becker and Dow Phumiruk

You've likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 [mission]. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home? As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe. From Katherine's early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, this is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.--Adapted from book jacket

Biography Oppression & Resilience

The unstoppable Garrett Morgan

2019

by Joan DiCicco and Ebony Glenn

"The biography of Garrett A. Morgan, an African American entrepreneur and prolific inventor, whose bravery saved lives at the Cleveland Waterworks Disaster in 1916. Includes timeline and author's sources."--publisher

Biography Oppression & Resilience

A walk on the shoreline

2015

by Rebecca Hainnu and Qin Leng

Young Nukappia can't wait to get out to his family campsite on the shoreline. After spending all year in the south with his adoptive parents, Nukappia always looks forward to his summer visits with his birth family. After spending one night in town, Nukappia and his uncle Angu begin the long walk down the shore to the family summer campsite, where all of Nukappia's cousins and aunts and uncles are waiting for him. Along the way, Nukappia learns that the shoreline is not just ice and rocks and water. There is an entire ecosystem of plants and animals that call the shoreline home. From seaweed to clams to char to shore grasses, there is far more to see along the shoreline than Nukappia ever imagined. |cProvided by publisher

Beautiful Life Informational

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.
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