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How Many Characters of Color in Your Child's Books?


How Many Characters of Color in Your Child's Books?

Debra Jacobs

While diversity in children’s literature is increasing, the vast majority of characters remain overwhelmingly white, sending the message to all kids that Caucasian people constitute the norm. *

Do an audit of your child’s books. Do any of them have a black, Hispanic, Asian, and/or Native American person as a main character? (If you don’t own many children’s books, choose random picture books at the library).

Separate the books into four piles:

1. Those with animal characters;

2. Those that have only white characters;

3. Those that include characters of other races but not as the main character; and,

4. Those whose main character is a person of color. 

If the pile of books that include a person of color as the main character is as big as or bigger than the pile with only white characters, congratulations! Talk with your child about how happy you are that his or her books include brown, black, and other people as well as white people.

More likely, the white-only pile will far outweigh the other piles. In that case, talk with your child about how unfair it is that so many books feature white people and not people of other races. 

Preschoolers have a highly developed sense of “fair” and “not fair.” We want to point out unfairness - but also provide a path to empowerment. Ask your child, “What do you think we can do to make this fair?”

You may want to head to the library to find books featuring main characters of other races. See the attached list of resources for suggestions.

Resources for books with people of color as the main characters: