I was just a kid when I read The Snowy Day by Keats and at the time I did not realize the impact the book had on the world of children’s books. It wasn’t until my Children’s Lit. course that I learned that this book was the first children’s book to be published that had a black protagonist and this book was published in 1962. This book went on to win the Caldecott medal in 1963 which was a big deal considering the prestige of this award and the year that this book was published.
Since then many awards have been created for authors of different races and ethnicities but why we don’t see this books in the classroom or the library? The problem isn’t the teacher or the library the problem is simply that books by authors of different races are not getting published. We are not seeing these books in classrooms because they aren’t being published. According to an article in the New York Times Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?, only 93 of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 were by black people. Why is this? Some publishing companies claim it is because there is no market for African American books but they couldn’t be any less wrong. There probably is no market because there are no books. How can you expect to have a demand for something when there is nothing to demand?
This causes authors that wished to be published to self-publish. Self-published books already have enough bad press that most self-published books don’t get read even if they are worth it. What J.K. Rowling had given up and self-published, Agatha Christie, Frank Herbert, George Orwell, Louisa May Alcott? Would we have read their works or considered not worth it because they were self-published? Ever heard of Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny or The Tale of Peter Cottontail? Beatrix Potter had to self publish her books and now they have become a house hold name. Do not ignore authors that self-publish because you do not know the reasons behind that. It’s like the old saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, which you should never do because some really great books can have awful cover art. Don’t judge a book just because it is self-published without reading it first; then you can tell me it is an awful book.
Teenagers/kids of different races need books that they can relate to. I am going to be honest and say I don’t really relate to black kids in Harlem because that is not where I grew up and I’m not black. I can’t understand those books like someone who is black and grew up Harlem. I read books I can relate to same as anybody else but what happens when there are no books to relate to? Readers are born when they find books they can relate to and that hold their interest. If kids of different ethnicities can’t find books to relate to and therefore do not become readers then we, the United States of America, have failed them.