Rooting out racism in children’s books

The lack of representation of communities of color in children’s books is another longstanding problem – one that has persisted since at least the 1920s when renowned sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois first expressed his concerns about anti-Black racism in children’s books. Books can serve as important tools for children to develop their own sense of self and identity. When children of color do not see themselves in the books they read, this sends the message that they and their communities are not important.

In a study published in 2020, my colleagues and I used critical race theory to develop a rubric to critically analyze racial representations in children’s books. Drawing from this research, here are five questions to consider when choosing books about people of color:

It is important to see people of color represented in a wide array of characters to avoid falling into racist tropes and stereotypes. When characters of color are present, it is important to recognize the position they play in the story line. Children should have the opportunity to see characters of color as main characters, central to the stories they read. …

By Lindsay Pérez Huber, College of Education , California State University, Long Beach

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