Friday, March 12, 2010

Books That Look Like Us

I recently discovered Lee and Low. They are an independent publisher of children's books. One of their claims to fame is that many of the educational story books celebrate diversity. Characters typically feature children of color. There are african american children's books in mainstream publishing, and to a lesser extent asian american childern's books, but I think many of them heavily rely on the book conveying a cultural message. While that is be needed, I wish to see more books that are about a typical age appropriate story featuring children where the children happen to be of color but its not the focus of the story, such as a fanciful tale akin to Flat Stanley or James and the Giant Peach. Sort of like "colorblind casting" in the theater. In other words, where the presence of children of color doesn't always signify a heavy message.

The nice thing about the publisher, is even though there are historical "heritage" stories, there are also many tales where the characters happen to be of mixed race or a minority ethnicity. I think that these stories speak to children even more because the kids are "just like them" no matter what the ethnicity of the reader is. One such story is The Can Man, about a middle class boy who happens upon Mr. Peters, a man who regularly collects aluminum soda cans at the school. The story is told from a child's perspective rather than in a way that pushes adult ideas down a kid's throat. The man character, a boy named Tim, is portrayed in illustration as a child of both Asian and Caucasian descent, which is a similar heritage to that of author Laura E. Williams. Children appreciate books where child characters tend to come to their own conclusions independently of their parents, and that is what Tim does.

To find more books for homeschooling or to supplement what is issued at public school, visit


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