Why Does Representation Matter in Children's Literature?
When you were a child, did you have a favorite book character? Someone that you could relate to or that made you feel like you were less alone in the world? Think about that character and its influence on your life. This is the basis of why representation matters in children’s literature. Seeing a character that looks, believes, thinks, or lives like one’s own self gives children validation. It makes children feel like they are seen and understood, and it helps give them self-worth. Every child that walks into a library should be given the opportunity to find themselves in a book.
However, we shouldn’t limit our children or ourselves to seeking out only familiar experiences in books. Diversity in children’s literature can help children to understand the world around them. Children can explore the many cultures in their community and around the globe through books. They can learn about all sorts of different kinds of families that don’t look, live, or think like their own. Books can help them see the world from a different perspective. This helps children, and their grownups, develop empathy for others.
The reading materials and media that small children consume lay the foundation for learning, relating to others, social-emotional development, and their own self-perception. Exposing children to diverse characters in their literature gives them the best opportunity to feel confident in themselves while navigating life itself.