Representations of people in literature impact the way we see ourselves and each other. When there’s a disproportionate representation of one specific race, gender, orientation or ability, it reinforces stereotypes and stigmas which could otherwise be dismantled.
Kids in elementary school see a lot of white boys and dogs, but fewer than 10% of children’s books will have a black person as the main character.
My generation of young people, currently between the ages of 10-and-18, are more diverse and a larger population size than any other generation that has come before us. More than 16% are African-American, 12.2% are Asian-American and 17.7% are Hispanic and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the overall number of Latino, African-American and Asian students now surpasses the number of non-Hispanic whites in the public K-12 classrooms.
While the number of children’s books by and about African Americans has jumped by 42% between 2014 and 2015, it still only represents 7-10% of all books published where the central characters are African American. Factor this data alongside the ratio of male central characters at 2:1, as compared to their leading lady counterparts, and you can understand that it’s hard for a girl like me to easily find a role-model in the stories I read.
My mom posted a great piece entitled “Representation Matters” which describes how the absence of girls of color in books effectively silences their lives and renders them invisible.