Tips to Decolonize & Diversify Your Child’s Library

I was on a panel recently where we discussed the importance of diverse picture books. I spoke to the importance of infusing publishing with diverse voices, but also cautioned against the idea that all diverse books are good diverse books.

Young literary enthusiast reading “The Noisy Classroom” by Angela Shanté.

In an attempt to further the discussion, here are some tips on how to effectively decolonize and diversify your child’s library:

  1. Seek diverse authors, not just diverse books.
    If you want to truly decolonize your library seek more than a Black/Brown face on the cover of the book. I tell my students all the time that true research comes from vetting sources. Make sure you vet the books in your library. Who is the author of the book? Who is the illustrator?
  2. Look out for biases beyond the cover.
    Make sure books that you are selecting don’t have biases inside the book. How are the Black/Brown people presented? Are traditional gender-roles running rampant? Who is the ‘savior’
    responsible for fixing the larger problem in the book (for fiction titles)?
  3. Don’t fall for the ‘Hardship-only’ narrative.
    Yes, we love books about the first Black person to… and books that show the strength in Blackness by overcoming… BUT there is more to Blackness than our struggle. Decolonizing and diversifying your library also means selecting books that reflect the full
    breath of our stories and the culture, and we are more than our struggles.

    Ask yourself, from which lens are the historical facts represented (for
    nonfiction titles)?
  4. Include other diverse voices.
    Think beyond Black/Brown authors. Do you have any books written by an author from the LGBTQIA community? Are all of the authors in your library able-bodied people?

I’ll leave you with this: Do the work. There are tons of lists floating around now (like the most current New York Times Children’s picture book list) that includes several books written by people of color, however, this should only be the starting point.

Go beyond these curated lists to find books that fall within the guidelines above, you will surely discover new voices, and new titles that your kids and/or students will love.

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Picture of Angela Shanté

Angela Shanté

Angela Shanté is a teacher, poet, and author of the book “The Noisy Classroom”, a book about a non- traditional classroom and an anxious third grader. Angela has a MSED in Education with a focus on literacy and a holds a MFA in Creative Writing. She lives in Southern California where she splits her time between working as an educational consultant and writing literature for kids.

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