When I was fifteen I babysat a young girl (we’ll call her Sarah) who, as most children do, had lots of questions about the world and no filter about asking them. One day on one of our walks we passed a man who had what can only be described as a “Santa beard”. Now, children are remarkable beings who question everything in an attempt to understand all of the different things around them that they are trying to get to know and understand properly. Sometimes when children are trying to learn about something new, it puts us adults in an awkward situation which is exactly what happened with Sarah. It went a little something like this:
Man with Santa beard walks closer to us.
Sarah: Why does that man have something funny on his face?
Me: It’s called a beard Sarah. *internally dying from awkwardness and hoping the man didn’t hear*
Sarah: Well it’s pretty ugly he shouldn’t do that.
Me: *realizing the man definitely heard and internally screaming* uh-uh-uh Sarah it’s not nice to say things like that. *runs away fast*
Now I’m not saying that the following book would have avoided this interaction, but it certainly would have given my younger self some better ammunition to tackle this conversation about diversity with a child.
Children’s books celebrating diversity are hard to come by in the current literature. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but a lot of it boils down to larger publishers not taking on diverse work, especially in children’s literature, for fear of lack of sales or fear of being “too political”. This leads many authors to self publish their books and hope for the best in the ever expanding world of children’s picture books. This is a shout-out post to one book in particular that is rising in the ranks.
**For more information on why diverse books are an important part of children’s educational development please see this blog post.**
The People You May See by Lisa Koehler is a marvelous compilation of hand drawn portraits of diverse individuals, coupled with descriptions of those diversities. The descriptions are written in a language chosen specifically for children to process and understand.
Koehler describes the thought process behind the book in her Amazon.com description:
“Children are curious and have many questions about what they are seeing. You can use this book as a guide to approach the world with kindness, understanding, and an open heart.”
This book is not only an amazing display of Koehler’s artistic talents (which you can find more of on her website) but a reminder to us all that diversity need not be a “difficult” topic to discuss anymore.
Graduate student in Masters of Library and Information Science programming trying to save the world one book at a time.