What are you unintentionally teaching through the books you choose for your kids?
“Read it again!”
How many times have you gotten to the end of a book and have a toddler insist on starting over? It’s, like, on their job description right?
Storytime is one of A’s favorite times, whether it happens once in a day or a few times, so I realized pretty quickly in her life that books are a great way for kids to learn about the world, both about what we intend for them to learn and what we don’t intend for them to learn.
Take a quick survey of your child’s book collection and consider these questions….
Do all the people characters have white skin?
Do most have white skin, except for a secondary character here and there?
Do all members of the same family have the same color skin? Or are there multi-racial families?
Are they all able bodied?
Do all the pronouns correlate with what you can assume to be a character’s sex?
Are only the binary gender pronouns represented? (she, he)
What is the proportion of male lead characters to female lead characters?
Are all the parents of characters in heterosexual relationships?
Do characters all have two parents? Or are there single parents?
Are there any foster or adoptive families represented?
Consider these questions and ask yourself, what is my child learning? What are they learning about who is normal? What are they learning about who has value? What are they learning about who is important? What are they learning about who’s perspective is valid? If you don’t like your answers, it is time to upgrade your child’s book collection.
New books are expensive, you don’t have to go that route. If I go to a yard sale I always keep an eye out for books with characters that are people of color, have any disability, are gender creative or transgender, have same sex parents, have a single parent, have foster or adoptive families, or have grandparents as guardians. Honestly, I don’t find much going this route, a book here and there, but the price is worth looking every time.
I also check out bargain bins and clearance shelves at department and book stores. Used book stores can be a great resource, though for some reason I have yet to find one that has much selection for kids books.
A couple times I have specifically asked for books for gifts: a baby shower, A’s first birthday. But heads up, if you don’t specify the characters you are looking for, you will likely get more of what you already have.