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Black Girl Reading BookIt is so important for children to see faces that they can relate to on the covers, to meet characters with similar cultural experiences, lives and families.  Equally important is for children to also see differences in books and to learn about those who are different from themselves.  Yet, most African-American children are more familiar with the latter situation than the first. Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Dismayed by the low statistics, novelist Jennifer Weiner launched a call to “tweet your favourite books with non-white characters using #colormyshelf. Let’s build a list. Then: let’s go shopping.”  She went on to write on Twitter, “Your kid’s/school’s/library’s shelf doesn’t look like America.  If publishers see a market for books with non-white main characters, they’ll give us more.” She was inundated with suggestions, from titles by Sherman Alexie and Malorie Blackman, with readers and authors also sending her lists like “25 Empowering Books for Little Black Girls.”

“Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity,” writes Walter Dean Myers, famed young adult author. “What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?”

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