Books

The Importance of Diverse Books: A Real Live CJ

Cover of Last Stop on Market Street

Earlier this month, a family came into the Children’s Services department at the Allen County Public Library to use the computers. I happened to be collecting books for an upcoming “Check Out Diverse Books” program, so when the youngest boy told me his name was CJ, I showed him his namesake in the award-winning Last Stop On Market Street. When he saw that not only did he share a name with the character, but that the character looked like him too, CJ’s grin was SO HUGE!

I read him the book, and at the end he said, “That is SO AWESOME!” He took me to his mom who we found at the catalog computers; she was looking through our collection to find chapter books with African-American protagonists for her older kids. (I’m not making this up!)

It was such a perfect example of how much we need to continue to press for diverse and inclusive books. There is a large portion of our population who don’t get to see themselves in the books they read—and it can really take a toll to only see white characters again and again. It starts to wear on the self-esteem (I know this from experience). But this interaction galvanizes me even more than my own experience growing up reading as a biracial girl in a white protagonists’ world. There are so many marginalized kids out there right now who need to see that we value them. And there are many kids out there who are part of the in-group who need to see the value of other colors, cultures, abilities, etc.

May we, as librarians, as youth service providers, as parents, and as caring human beings, continue to promote books that include diverse skin colors, cultures, religions, abilities, orientations, genders, and ages. May we all be conscientious of the books we are taking on outreach to preschools and daycares, the books we are putting in our collections for teachers, and the opportunities we have to say in subtle, but valuable ways that everyone has worth and deserves stories.

Keep up the valiant work, everyone! We are changing the world, one book at a time!

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Photo of Dori Graham, guest blogger
Photo courtesy of guest blogger.

Our guest blogger today is Dori Graham. Dori is a children’s librarian at the Allen County Public Library. She is also attending Hamline University through their low residency Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She hopes to one day publish works that reflect the diverse world in which we live.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

3 comments

  1. Teresa K. Cain

    Amazing and heartwarming. I hope your story makes it to the ears of Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson!

  2. Polly

    Squee! That is so awesome, thanks for sharing!

  3. Tina Hoggatt

    Such a lovely story. Thanks for putting books into the hands of families that need them.

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