A Need for Multicultural Picture Books

Jalapeno Bagels is about a Mexican-Jewish boy.

I thought this was an interesting article from an online newsletter I get called Shelf Awareness regarding multicultural picture books:

A solid majority of adults in the U.S. believe in the importance of multicultural picture books for children, but many find it difficult to obtain them. According to a recent telephone survey of a thousand adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, 78% said they believe that it is important for children to be exposed to picture books that feature main characters of various ethnicities or races, while 33% reported that it is difficult to find such books. 

The survey also found that 73% of parents and 49% of adults have purchased a children’s picture book with a protagonist of a different race or ethnicity from the child who will be reading the book, while only 10% consider it important to match the race or ethnicity of the main character of a picture book to the race or ethnicity of the child who will be receiving the book.

“It’s reassuring that so many adults recognize the value in exposing children to books that portray people of all colors and ethnicities,” said Deborah Pope, executive director of the foundation. “What’s disheartening though is that, even today, these books are few and far between. Young children learn by what they see–they need to have quality books that show what joins us rather than what separates us.” 

When asked which factors they consider when selecting a children’s picture book, survey respondents cited interesting stories (62%) and important lessons (61%), followed by eye-catching pictures (41%). “At the end of the day, people just want children to be exposed to good books,” said Pope. “I encourage them to look for children’s picture books that promote universal experiences and help expand the definition of what it means to be a child in a world with endless possibilities.” 

Author Note: Jalapeno Bagels has been in print for 15 years, a testament to the need for multicultural books, and the staying power of ones well written. For years I have been wanting to publish a follow-up story using this same family but to no avail. Perhaps there’s still a chance my story will see the publishing light. Let’s hope!


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