I've recently been following the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign  on Twitter whose aim is to "put more books featuring diverse chara...

We Need Diverse Books

Tuesday, July 05, 2016 BookBairn Blog 8 Comments

I've recently been following the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign on Twitter whose aim is to "put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children".

In BookBairn's library, if I take out the books that feature animals as the main characters (for these certainly are a diverse mix: lions, ducks, caterpillars, dinosaurs, aliens, monsters, you name it we've seen it in a picture book!), there isn't a very big pile of books left. From what I gather, this is often a conscious decision on the part of authors, illustrators and publishers in order to sell books more widely across the globe without having at adapt characters to 'fit' with different ethnicities. And whilst, I understand this to some degree, shouldn't children be able to read books featuring characters that look like them as well as those who don't? In my experience, children don't seem to care much whether the main character in a book is black, white, brown, purple, yellow, orange or green - just take the Mr Men as an example!

I want BookBairn to grow up not to question someone's skin colour, religion or ethnicity but rather to have been so exposed to people from different cultures and backgrounds that she doesn't even notice. I want to raise child who is culturally and religiously literate, who knows that people who look different, speak differently or have different beliefs are spectacularly normal. Just like her.

To start, I'm going to look out for books featuring children from all around the world, and books by authors from all around the world, and books in different languages. I'm starting with some books by Bharat Babies who are working hard to challenge the lack of diversity in children's books by publishing a series of books starring characters from India or of Indian descent.

'Padmini is Powerful' by Amy Maranville, illustrated by Tim Palin, is a beautiful board book primer that introduces, through the main character, Padmini, the Hindu gods. Firstly, the illustration of Padmini is adorable: she has a geeky-tomboy quirkiness about her that is irresistible. Dressed in blue dungarees, with square-framed red glasses and converse-style trainers, with her lopsided bunches, Padmini is everything a little girl should be: ready for an adventure! As you turn the pages, you will learn that Padmini is powerful like the Hindu gods: she is wise, like Ganesh; she has focus, like Shiva; she is generous and kind, like Lakshmi; and she is protective like Vishnu. As you turn the final page, a mirror is revealed alongside the phrase "Padmini is powerful. And so are you.". What a lovely message for little readers! There is certainly something special about a book that teaches gently and empowers deeply. For anyone looking to introduce their tots and toddlers to religious diversity, this is such a great place to start.

We also have 'Hanuman and the Orange Sun' by the same team but aimed at older readers than BookBairn (aged 3 and up I would suggest). This book introduces Harini, a bit more polished that Padmini, with her yellow sundress, pink tights and tidy hair, complete with red bow and her mother as they make lunch. Harini's mother tells the story of Hanuman Dada, a Hindu god who, as a child, believed the sun was a juicy orange and flies up into the sky to eat it. As BookBairn is too young (i.e. she won't yet sit for the length of the story), I haven't read this story very often but I think it is a good introduction to Hindu stories and will certainly enjoy reading ti with her when she is older. In the meantime, I hope Bharat Babies are planner more primer-style books for little ones as I love the inspiration behind these books! I see that they have books about Eid and Ramadan on their website, but these look to be fore older readers so I hope there will be a primer for little ones featuring Muslim stories or traditions too.

I would love to know if you are aware of any books to add to our multi-cultural book selections. Please comment below, or send us a message on our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram Feeds.

Mummy and BookBairn xx

*DISCLAIMER* I was given our books for free for review purposes by Bharat Babies, however, all words and opinions are my own.


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8 comments:

  1. Totally agree, diversity is part of life so should definitely be reflected in books too! Thanks for sharing with #ReadWithMe

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    1. Absolutely! Books should reflect our society! x

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  2. I totally agree with your sentiments and I love the sound of Padmini.

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    1. You will love her amazement when she sees the baby in the mirror!

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  3. The Lulu books by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw are really lovely, and usually involve going to the library. There's also the Anna Hibiscus stories but I haven't actually read any of them. Babies Loves Books by the Anholts has a diverse range of babies (and other people) in it.

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  4. These books look amazing! I love books with diverse characters, they are so important but so hard to come by. I review quite a few books about Judaism on my blog.
    #readwithme

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    1. Thank you! I'll pop over and have a wee look but feel free to link any below! xx

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