Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr, from Jump Into a Book,and Mia Wenjen, from PragmaticMom, have teamed up to create an ambitious—and much needed —national event: Multicultural Children’s Book Day. The first event was launched on January 27, 2014 as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.
The mission of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is two-fold: 1) To raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity; and 2) to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.
Despite census data that shows 37% of the U.S. population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity-related content. Mia and Valarie are on a mission to redress the balance. Their focus is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries.
“Content does matter, and we know that the more children read—especially about themselves—the better the odds are to close the achievement gap,” said Renee Prewitt, an author and CEO who speaks to groups about the 30 Million Word Gap, which showed that low-income children hear 30 million fewer words by age three than high income children. “It’s time for the publishing industry to catch up with reality and maybe Multicultural Children’s Book Day will be the catalyst.”
Here in Minnesota, civil rights attorney, educator, and author, Dr. Artika Tyner has thus far written three outstanding children’s book that not only showcase diversity, but teach children the importance of history, whether it be local or as far away as Africa.
Justice Makes A Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter was published in 2017. Through conversations with her grandma and their shared love of books, Justice learns about important men and women throughout history who have changed the world: Ella Baker, Shirley Chisholm, Charles Hamilton Houston, Dr. Wangari Maathai, Paul Robeson, and Ida B. Wells and other influential African-Americans.
Amazing Africa: A to Z, published in 2018, is a fun and resourceful book that takes children and even adults on a visual journey throughout the continent of Africa. Readers will visit the pinnacle of Mount Kilimanjaro and learn a few new words in Swahili and Twi while exploring Africa’s rich natural resources.
Joey and Grandpa Johnson’s Day in Rondo tells the story of the Minneapolis Rondo neighborhood, a thriving predominantly black community that was devastated when federal government leaders chose to run the new I-94 Interstate directly through it in 1956.
Each of these books give children important information about vital history about black leaders, and locales as exotic as Africa to a vibrant local neighborhood. All of them present images to readers who too often do not see characters who look like them, with a strong sense of history.