No books for your kids… Unless they’re white

By United Way of King County, on May 14, 2014 | In Helping Students Graduate

“I’m the shark!”
“No, I’m the shark!”
“You were the shark last time!”

In my several years of reading to four-year olds in the Volunteer Reader program, favorite books have come and gone, attention spans have waxed and waned, but the one constant is that the kids look to identify with a character in the book they’re reading – even when the book (like Shark vs. Train) is not about people.

It’s when the books are about people that it gets tricky (or, more accurately, infuriating).

Of the 3,200 children’s books published last year only 8% had non-white main characters.

Not only have these numbers barely moved since 1985 when someone started measuring this stuff – they’re indicative of just how deep-rooted this imbalance is.

I’m no expert – I’m not even a parent – but when kids don’t see themselves in the books they’re reading, it’s a problem.

My hunch is it’s less about people of color being drawn to the profession (although who could blame them – check out one author’s view here) and more about a publishing world that’s dominated by those who are white.

  • Until publishers and editors are cultivating relationships with authors of color
  • Until white kids are reading books about people that don’t look exactly like them and later writing about them
  • Until kids of color can be inspired to share their stories


That you’re reading about this topic is good. That you’re talking about it is even better. Join the campaign to promote nonwhite characters with #colormyshelf.


All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.