Sailaja Joshi, the founder of Mango & Marigold Press, shares a few thoughts on how to increase the diversity of children’s home libraries to help expand their perspectives.

Diversity in children’s literature is a well-documented issue. In a recent survey of nearly 4,000 books, only 12% featured Black/African main characters and only 8.7% featured Asian/Asian American. The lack of representation in children’s literature is alarming, and as parents, we have the ability to mold and shape our children’s young minds and create lifelong morals and values that will help them better themselves and the world through the literature we read to them and provide them with.

(We’re a Nation of a Billion Indians, Yet I Hardly See Myself in Children’s Books.)

The work we do at Mango & Marigold Press helps to amplify the voices of diverse multiracial authors and illustrators. With our #1001DiverseBooks initiative, Mango & Marigold Press funds 1,001 new copies of each of their books for literacy nonprofits to bridge the accessibility gap and provide children with a wider range of representation in the characters and experiences they’re reading about. 

Yet, despite our efforts (and many other amazing organizations and initiatives!), it’s clear that substantial improvement is still very much needed, and it starts at home. Here’s how you can take action and diversify your child’s at-home library to one that’s more inclusive and represents communities other than your own.

1. Know where you stand now

Before you can move your books forward, you need to know what you have on your shelves, and what you don’t have. From there, you can browse online or at your local bookstore to fill in the gaps in your child’s at-home library.

2. Check the author

Oftentimes, multicultural stories share inaccurate representation of cultural experiences because they are written by people writing outside their experience. Therefore, it’s essential to do your own research on the author to ensure an accurate depiction of multicultural stories.

3. Support smaller companies

Many libraries and schools depend on larger distribution companies to provide their books. That means that their collections are cultivated from a predetermined list of books. There’s far more out there. Take a look at smaller, local businesses that might be doing something different.

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The world is forever changing, expanding, and growing. Our libraries should grow and change too. Try to add these steps to your mentality as you approach your own reading lists; as you approach what you buy at the holidays; as you approach what you tell your children. 

(Where Are the Toxic Families in Children’s Books?)

One of the best ways we can support diversity is by making it a part of the conversation every day. The more you do these things, the more it will impact the way you see the world, and the way the children around you will see it. 

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Picture books are one of the most delightful—and important—genres in all of literature. In this course, you’ll learn how to write a winning picture book narrative, envision it with illustrations, and put together a picture package that a publisher will really notice. Plus, you’ll receive feedback on each assignment from your instructor and have the chance to participate in the peer critique section of the workshop with other classmates.

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