We have identified nine categories that capture the messages conveyed by children's books featuring characters of color. Every book in the Diverse BookFinder collection is coded using one or more of these nine themes.
The Nine Dominant Categories We Use Are:
- Beautiful Life: A focus on culture
- Oppression: Struggle, resistance, and triumph
- Cross-group: Interactions across race and culture
- Any Child: The “work” of childhood, or kids just being kids
- Biography: Stories about real people, real lives
- Race/Culture Concepts: Examining difference and commonalities
- Folklore: Myths, legends and traditional stories
- Incidental: Stories with white protagonists where characters of color are largely secondary
- Informational: Narrative nonfiction books featuring diverse communities with or without a storyline
We share our live numbers related to each of these categories in hopes of helping the broader community understand what is and is not currently available.
For example, using the numbers in parentheses to the right of each book category we can see:
- As of August 1, 2018 we have identified 208 published picture books that featured characters interacting across racial and cultural differences (eg - Cross-group books)
Using Cross-Group Searches on Diverse BookFinder to Understand Representation
By selecting the cross-group filter and opening the race-culture pull down menu, we can see live numbers that give even more detail:
- The majority of these Cross-Group interactions were been between black and white characters.
Breaking this down even farther you can open the ethnicity-nationality pull down menu and see
- There are only two books featuring a friendship between a Somali and non-Somali character. Hence my own difficulty in my child's school and the inspiration for the Diverse BookFinder.
It’s our hope that data such as this can help the community identify gaps and trends, leading to broader representation in children’s picture books as a whole.
Using Cross-Group Searches on Diverse BookFinder to Create Change
However, I believe and know it can go so much deeper than just data. Understanding data can create action which creates change, as we saw in my daughter’s own school. This is in large part why we cross-identify books on a number of additional facets.
According to Psychological research, to be effective in fostering friendships across difference, a Cross-Group book must depict children who:
- are recognizably different from each other interacting directly (playing together, face-to-face),
- in a positive manner (no oppression or conflict), where they share equal status in the relationship
- in stories where their friendship is central to the plot.
We tag all of the Cross-Group books to provide information about each of these story features.
If you select a Cross-Group book you will see additional tags indicating whether the intercultural relationship is central, direct and positive (stories can also be indirect, negative/resolving, or non-central). If not, the book may still be good from a literary standpoint, but will not likely facilitate the development of friendships across racial/cultural difference. You can find this information at the bottom of the specific book page.
Here are some other suggested cross-group titles where the friendship is central, direct and positive. Use the Diverse BookFinder to locate and explore even more.
Jo can't wait to get to the playground
Jamaica's friend Kristin needs to give away her kitten. But Jamaica's brother is allergic to cats. Jamaica assumes this doesn't mean kittens too. But when her brother's allergies bother him before the football game, Jamaica must find a solution to the problem. She wants the kitten, but she also wants her brother to be healthy
Explores two concepts for preschoolers, the parts of our bodies and the names of our senses. These concepts are presented to preschoolers through the lens of friendship, as best friends Leo and Sam playfully describe what they each like best about the other
Monifa met Mei Jing on the first day of school and they've been best friends ever since. The girls have much in common, from their love of arts and crafts to their dream of becoming veterinarians. Monifa thinks Mei Jing's family customs are pretty neat, too, like getting red envelopes for Chinese New Year and eating with chopsticks
Lottie Paris goes to the library, her favorite place in the world, and makes a new friend for whom the library is also a special place
After her best friend, Hector, moves away, Juna's brother Minho tries to make her feel better by finding things to put in her special kimchi jar, and each night, whatever is in the jar takes her on a magical journey in search of Hector. Includes glossary
I hope this information sparks conversation and change so that all of our children can be best prepared for the diverse world in which we currently live.