Reading and sharing picture books cultivates young children’s early literacy. A daily storytime routine prepares them for school and life during a critical stage in brain development – ages 0 to 5. Young children who are read to are able to hit the ground running when they go to kindergarten. Studies show that reading to young children equals school success. Storytimes in libraries also provide a social step between the living room and the classroom. Most important, storytimes make reading and learning FUN! Library storytimes are a great place to pick up story reading skills and repertoire, but development happens best with books in the parent/primary caregiver’s lap!
I was recently asked to address the topic of diversity in storytime during a training for volunteer storytime presenters. The volunteers read to children from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds in Head Start Centers. I wanted to impress the importance of including mirror books in storytime. We all seek to find ourselves in the books we read. Mirror books are books in which children can see themselves. I talked a bit about mirror books and then asked this question:
We know it is true that when children see themselves reflected in books, they learn they are valued by society. What happens when children don’t see themselves reflected in books?
Then I asked the presenters to think about the racial and cultural diversity in their classrooms. I encouraged them to choose books with characters that look like the students they serve. Why? Because children really need mirror books. They are self-affirming. To help, I gave them this list of picture books with diverse characters for storytime. To further underline the importance of seeking out mirror books, I included the infographic above (published at ALA Orlando this year). The infographic addresses the scarcity of diverse characters across children’s book publishing.
One final note, when you buy books with diverse characters and/or books that reflect different cultures, you help create more demand. So, one way you can help bring about change is by making a statement with your wallet!