Racial Awareness and Children’s Literature

I created a session for the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ conference entitled, Stepping into Writing Across Culture.  The following begins my posts on the subject.  I offer my journey in these posts as a white writer who writes books about people in cultures not my own. I’ve been studying white privilege as a key factor in the discussion of the responsibility of  white children’s book creators who seek to portray cultures outside their own experience.

My first step has been to explore blogs, essays, books on the subject of race and children’s literature and in this post I offer a bibliography of resources on issues of race in children’s and young adult books.

I also want to share a key idea that is a vital starting place: children’s books cannot portray a race, a culture, an ethnic group, a category of people.  Our responsibility is to portray the individual. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a book in the form of a letter to his son, Between the World and Me. He helped me see this vast responsibility we have as we create for children with these lines about enslavement: “Slavery is a particular, specific enslaved woman whose mind is as active as your own, whose range of feelings as vast as your own, who prefers how the light falls in one particular spot in the woods, who enjoys fishing where the water eddies in a nearby stream, who loves her mother in her own complicated way, thinks her sister talks too loud, has a favorite cousin, a favorite season, excels at dressmaking and knows inside herself that she is as intelligent and capable as anyone.”

Resources on Issues of Race and Culture in Children’s and YA Books

Book Cover Project

The New School for Children librarian Allie Jane Bruce and students had a series of discussions about the covers of young adult books and representations of and race, stereotypes, and other issues.

Examining Multicultural Picture Books

Diversity in YA

Dear Ellen, You are not Me


Dear White Writers Ellen Oh’s Blog post

Educating Alice


The Open Book Lee & Low blog

Reading While White

Writing Diversity While White

From the Outside, post by Linda Sue Park

” I don’t know of a single good fiction writer who doesn’t write outside their own experience. Period. But here’s the thing: Not all ‘outsides’ are created equal.

“Who Can Tell My Story” by Jacqueline Woodson

Thanks for reading. I will follow with the story of my interviews with writers and illustrators and wisdom we have gathered in the process.  I want to share this wisdom with you.

2 thoughts on “Racial Awareness and Children’s Literature

  • April 29, 2016 at 12:10 am

    This is wonderful material Terry and I would love to share it with a Facebook group I am a part of (though I am a cuckoo in the nest) “Young White Clergy Reading Racism” — I must say that the new “specific feeds” system is not easy to get through to the material itself. Ah, well.

  • April 29, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Hi Maren, Yes, please do share on Facebook any and in all ways you would like. I want to have this conversation widely. I will tell the web designer your comment. Thank you.


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