Representation in children’s literature and on television

It almost goes without saying – especially here at Just Like Me Box – representation is so important for our children. We work so hard to deliver diverse books because for starters, children cannot become what they cannot see. 

How many of us were moved as children by black Hollywood stars and public figures? They represented possibility. They represented a future that we could see ourselves in. We needed them.

Unfortunately, according to the graphic below, in 2018, only 10% of books published depicted African-American main characters. Twenty-seven percent featured animals as main characters. The graphic has not yet been updated but you can probably guess there hasn’t been a transformative lift. 

While some progress is being made, there is still a lot of work to do to offer the appropriate type of representation as well as more of it. There are far more stories within our culture to tell than those about slavery or even about civil rights. There are books about black traditions, fantasy books, books related to historical figures, and just enjoyable books featuring black children as main characters. All of these are important because they shape the narrative of who our children can be. They need to see themselves as a part of this world, too. 

So how can we find more representation in children’s books? 

Follow Black authors
Black authors like Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, Angie Thomas and Denene Milner (just to name a few) are hard at work delivering best sellers year after year. By following them on social media you can learn about upcoming projects and books that they recommend as well.

Get into book lists
Sometimes booksellers, publishers, librarians – even magazine editors – publish book lists of the top black children’s books. These are often a great place to identify new favorites that you maybe haven’t heard of yet.

Don’t forget about independent authors and bookstores
No one can tell our stories like us. The best representation comes from black authors and unfortunately as we’ve seen, those authors don’t always have an equal opportunity with major publishers and self-publish or go independent instead. Check out some of the independent bookstores in your city, Amazon or even social media to find them. Some of them may inspire you to tell your own story, too!

And, of course, don’t forget about Just Like Me Box. Every month we strive to deliver age-specific books for your children.

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