The classic formula for children's books featuring white protagonists, damsels in distress, and heroic knights in shining armor is no longer tenable given our modern landscape. It's important that children are able to mold their identities with an appreciation of the diversity of race, culture, and a variety of family dynamics. To that end, Bates College in Maine and the Institute of Museum and Library Services have partnered to assemble the Diverse BookFinder – a database with information on 1,300 diverse picture books to provide kids with balanced options for their reading lists.
Co-founded by Bates College associate professor of psychology Krista Aronson, children’s book author and illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien, and Brenna Callahan, who was working on her thesis at Bates College the time the team began researching these books, the database is a great resource for parents who want to be intentional about incorporating characters of color and highlighting relevant topics like environmental issues, immigration, and LGBTQ rights into their personal libraries. “These books are hard to find,” Aronson told the HuffPost. “There are many that have never seen the light of day for various reasons.”
With book titles dating back to 2002, the illustrated collection lives on the first floor of a library on Bates College’s campus and is available for checkout or interlibrary loan. Aronson, who identifies as a biracial woman said that the collection sheds light on stereotypes that exist in the literary world. “One of the things that we started to uncover when we're thinking about the categories is who’s populating these categories,” she told HuffPost. “Not how many books are there about African-American children, but how are they being represented.”
Salute to the women behind this necessary project. To check out the online database, go to the Diverse BookFinder site.