In a more perfect world, none of us would judge based on gender or race. Very few would lean on either or both of these factors to determine how they feel about a fellow person or group. In the world in which we live today, gender inequality and racism continue to divide us.
Dominant biases are carried through the educational systems that guide future generations. This is where imbalance becomes a problem, and where we must ensure that a complete spectrum of voices speaks to our children. Theirs is a world that is increasingly and intricately connected.
“As they age into preschool and elementary school, however, children begin to develop an understanding that the world is made up of not just them and their family, but many people and many families. Accordingly, as the pure ego shrinks, empathy blossoms. Learning to navigate a world where the wants and needs of other people should be considered is not something kids grasp instantly.”
— Citizen-Times (July 2015)
“Multiculturalism is a means of teaching children about themselves by exploring different cultures, whether these cultures are foreign to them or their own. Literature is a means of understanding what it is to be human. It teaches us to sympathize with each other above our differences.”
— Jesse Bogner, author of The Egotist (September 2015)
It’s paramount today that more product lines feature culture-rich content, and for more guides to be female and/or voices of color. We’re proud to place a lovable Spanish wondergirl at the center of the Tabula Raisa™ universe.
“We live in an integrated world, one in which we all have a stake in each other’s success. We cannot turn back those forces of integration.”
— President Obama, U.N. Speech (September 28, 2015)
“Kids have a lot to gain by learning about other traditions: a connection to other cultures and traditions, an enriched world view, and the chance to think about their own traditions in deeper ways.”
— Time (September 2015)
Why is This So Critical in Early Childhood Education?
Youngsters are impressionable. When they begin in their education, it is developmentally appropriate to view themselves as the center of the world. They are concerned mostly with their wants and needs. They understand life outside their family circle in an imperfect manner.
As they enter preschool (if they’re lucky enough to experience this head start), collaboration and cooperation quickly become a part of their day. Crucial life skills take time. The maturity isn’t there yet to adjust on the fly. They could use a hand and a framework for making the most of these new interactions. In the least, they should invite these opportunities. They should not fear them.
“Scholars have found that stories have a strong influence on children’s understanding of cultural and gender roles. Stories do not just develop children’s literacy; they convey values, beliefs, attitudes, and social norms which, in turn, shape children’s perceptions of reality.”
— The Conversation (January 2016)
“When we promote positive experiences with diverse peers and break down barriers to friendship, children acquire more flexible thinking about others, develop a broader repertoire of social skills, and feel more comfortable and connected — leading to social and academic benefits. From a recent national survey, nearly all teachers (95%) believe social and emotional skills are teachable and report that social and emotional learning will benefit students from all backgrounds, rich or poor (97%).”
— Sanford Harmony, pamphlet (June 2015)
How Imbalanced Could it Possibly Be?
In February 2015, Advertising Age magazine looked into the numbers. They found that by 2060, close to one in three U.S. residents will be categorized as Hispanic (up from half that, or about one in six today). The multicultural population is increasingly born in the U.S. rather than abroad.
A 2015 survey of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) through the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered that of 650 children’s fiction books about human beings, 614 featured white characters and just 36 featured people of color as main characters (just 5.27%).
The imbalance — still an issue 50 years after Nancy Larrick’s landmark “The All-White World of Children’s Books” was published September 1965 in The Saturday Review — spurs young readers of color to feel that they do not matter , or even that to be white is to be better.
“A 2011 Florida State University study found that just 7.5% of nearly 6,000 picture books published between 1900 and 2000 depict female animal protagonists. No more than 33% of children’s books in any given year featured an adult woman or female animal, but adult men and male animals appeared in 100% of the books.”
— The Washington Post (January 2016)
“When a child is able to see herself reflected in literature, it is a huge boost to self-confidence and self-worth. She knows that she’s part of a global village, not just an island.”
— The Press-Enterprise (January 2016)
“You have to be motivated to read. Part of it is being inspired. If you never see yourself in a book, then it could have an impact on your motivation to read. It can impact reading comprehension and ability.”
— NBC News (June 2015)
Scan our product overview, or learn more about our tools for reading, exploring, and storytelling.