The United States is the most diverse country in the world. Yet when it comes to diversity in literature produced here, we are far behind. Wouldn't it be nice to see more children of all different colors and races represented in books more often? Yes, there has been an increase and improvement in this area, but the presence of children of color is still not as strong as it should be in children's books that are non-cultural or non-historical in nature.
There are many published books that feature characters of color but most have story plots that revolve around their culture. Publishers need to publish books with characters of color in every day situations, not just ones about their cultural history or practices. For the books that I illustrated "The Hero in You" by Ellis Paul and "My Body Belongs to Me" by Jill Starishevsky, both publishers told me they chose me because of the diverse characters that I draw in my illustrations. My most recent project was to illustrate a story called "Firefighter Mom" for Click Magazine (release date April, 2016). I had never drawn a firefighter let alone a firetruck before! But they chose me because the main characters were African American and I had children of color in the illustrations in my portfolio.
Many publishers say they're looking for more books with diverse characters, but the number of those books actually published is still not high enough. There is a need and a want out there - so it's also up to us writers and illustrators to start producing good, high quality work with characters of color so we can help make diversity a norm in children's books.
One organization trying to change that is We Need Diverse Books. They are working very hard to bring this topic to the forefront of the conversation in the publishing world as well as in movies and other forms of media.
So the next time you have an idea for writing or illustrating a story, ask yourself if you are making your characters too stereotypical or not diverse enough. After all, we live in a diverse world. Shouldn't our stories finally start to reflect that?
Angela Padron is a published illustrator of two books, including "The Hero in You" by Ellis Paul, as well as a Star Wars geek and chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. She also writes and illustrates her own picture books, board books, and chapter books. When she's not teaching, Angela works as a freelance writer and editor for educational publishers and spends weekends enjoying walks along the beach with her family. View her online portfolio at www.angelapadron.com. You can also "like" her facebook page, follow her on Twitter @angela_padron, and follow her own blog called "Show and Tell" with weekly posts about teaching, writing and illustrating books for children.
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