As a child of the 60's, I really didn't see myself in many picture books.
I didn't see me reflected in Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty Magazines or
Golden Children's books. My parents would buy my sister and I these
wonderful books and magazines because it was important to be a kid,
but it often saddened and frustrated them that the books didn't reflect
the people in our home. One day, I went to school and a teacher named,
Mrs. Russell, put me on her lap and showed me a wonderful book by
Ezra Jack Keats. That book would change my life. "The Snowy Day".
Mr. Keats would be one of the first illustrators of children's books
that would have a chocolate boy center stage in his book.
Peter looked like me. He was beautiful. I never heard a word Mrs.
Russell read honestly. It was the pictures that told me the
story. It was Peter's cute little brown face against his cozy red
snowsuit. It was his mama who looked just like my mama! It had everything
to do with his daddy that looked like my daddy. Peter and I were
sister and brother in my head and the pictures that Ezra created proved it.
The Snowy Day is 50 years old and
I just turned 50 last year. It saddens me deeply that we still don't see
children of color in books as often as I would like.
Of the 3,500 pictures books created last year, only 95 represented people of
color. We live in a very multicultural world and it is my joy to be reflected
this in the books and product that I create. I would hope that others would begin
to feel the same.
Don't get me wrong, we have a few, but not
enough. I love Mr. Keats's reply to an editor. She asked," Why did you
make Peter black? Are you trying to make a statement or something?"
Mr. Keats answered, "I put Peter there simply because he should have
been there all along." I feel the same way. I believe that ALL children
should be represented in Children's book! They all need to see themselves
in everyday situation that encourage imagine, diversity , problem solving
and community. Every child deserves this.