Hmm, fitting that on the last day of Black History Month, I come across this post of old, racist children’s books that perpetuate hate and stereotypes. My jaw dropped as I looked at these books, but it’s really eye-opening in terms of really looking at our children’s books as media messages. I’m sure (I hope? Unfortunately I can’t say with any accuracy, with the way things have been going in recent media) that these books are, if not burned, tucked away in some vaults where no children can find them. Interestingly enough, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is on this list, a book fraught with controversy in terms of its language regarding black people during slavery–it’s been argued back and forth.
The existence of these books proves our need for the very opposite. These books were meant to teach and inform white children of the “traits” of black people. Now we need books that promote and edify the culture of black people and other cultures. Children reading more and more positive portrayals shows them new worlds, opinions, and points of view. But often in school, as I’ve written in another post, there’s only one book per year that focuses on black literature and culture. We’re lucky if we get other perspectives than that.
Children’s literature does even more of a job of shaping and forming opinions than adult literature does, so we need to be careful what’s being explicitly and implicitly brought forth in their books. If children’s lit showcased more cultures, they will experience more world’s different from their own and be able to connect to people who are different from them both as children and as they grow into adults.