If you have lamented the lack of diversity in childrens and teen literature recently, you’re not alone. There aren’t a lot of books available for this age group featuring African-American, Asian or Latino characters in genres other than historical fiction, which is well represented. But where are the books set in the present about realistic issues, that just happen to have a minority as the main character? And while we’re at it, where are the minorities in other genres, such as fantasy and science-fiction? And mysteries and romance novels?
I came across an interesting statistic last week while researching another topic. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a research library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education, published a report on the trends in children’s literature. Of the almost 3000 books they reviewed that were published in 2007, only 150 featured “significant” African-American characters; 59 had Latino characters; and 68 had Asian/Pacific American characters. Those are pretty disappointing numbers. Especially considering that just because a book got published, it doesn’t mean it’s a good book.
While these books aren’t being published in overwhelming numbers, there are quite a few good books starring minority characters out there. A good place to start might be with a list of award-winning books, such as those that have won the Pura Belpré Award for Latino literature, or the Coretta Scott King Award for African-American literature. You can also go back to some of our previous posts on award books and recommended reading for children and teens. But your best bet? Ask your librarian for help. He or she will be happy to recommend something.