Reading serves to discover the world, both the familiar and the unfamiliar.
According to the National Education Association in an article from 2020:
In 1985, less than one percent of children’s books spotlighted Black characters… in 2015, children were about five times more likely to encounter a talking truck or dinosaur on the page than a Hispanic character. But by 2019, more than 12 percent of U.S.-published children’s books featured Black characters, according to the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Additionally, 9 percent of books featured Asian characters; 6.3 percent featured Hispanic characters; and less than 1 percent had Native American or Alaska Native characters.
To challenge this pattern and to address the dearth of diverse books, librarians and educators started looking at the idea that books can serve as “mirrors” or “windows.”
Books that serve as mirrors are books in which you see yourself and your life experiences. If you are white, there is no question that you can find many books with characters who look just like you. If you are not white, this task can prove more challenging.
Books with diverse characters allow Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native students to see themselves and their experiences reflected on the page. Books that serve as windows are books in which you see people not like you. These books help a reader develop empathy for communities, cultures, and experiences that they may not otherwise encounter. You can learn more about mirrors, windows, and why everyone should be reading diverse books here.
The Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature, established in 2011, collects multicultural books “which affirm the lives of the multicultural community.” They also sponsor activities for libraries and communities across the United States, designed to engage children, families, and educators with the use of multicultural literature. The Center itself houses a non-circulating collection of recent and historically significant multicultural children’s and young adult books, art works, and manuscripts.
Their website provides resources and strategies for teachers and teaching parents to integrate multicultural literature into lessons. Additionally, the CSMCL has partnered with author Pat Mora and the Association for Library Service to Children for a bilingual event called “Children’s Day/Book Day” or “El Dia de los Ninos/El Dia de los Libros” (http://dia.ala.org).
Each December, the Center curates a massive list of the “Best Multicultural Children’s Books," which consists of multicultural picture books, nonfiction books, and novels for children and teens, published throughout that year.
Here is a selection of the CSMCL's best multicultural picture books of 2021.
Here is a selection of the CSMCL's best multicultural novels and nonfiction books of 2021.