Flow Communications

With lockdowns confining people to their homes over the past year, global book sales have reportedly skyrocketed – including children’s books. Of course, this presents parents with the ideal opportunity to invest in books that entertain their kids while teaching them important values such as tolerance.

During a recent morning check-in meeting, Flowstars discussed why it is important to encourage their children to read books with a rich, diverse cast of characters instead of falling back on the stereotypical tropes of our childhood – the swooning princess being rescued by the manly, broad-chested hero, for example.

Just as Disney has moved from the passive blonde Cinderella and Aurora to more assertive heroines of colour such as Moana, Tiana and Ariel (the new live-action The Little Mermaid stars young actress Halle Bailey), representation in children’s fiction has also progressed in leaps and bounds.

We are now seeing more and more books in commercial outlets featuring characters of colour, and also of different abilities, religions, body shapes, interests and gender identities. It’s also heartening to see refugees and immigrants being foregrounded in a positive light.

By encouraging kids to look beyond the traditional archetypes, we are destigmatising “otherness” in a world that is still too rife with mistrust and intolerance. Vive la différence!

2018 CCBC image
This international study from 2018 showed the skewed nature of representation in children's books. However, if you know where to look in South Africa, there are a number of great books that depict characters from diverse backgrounds. (Image: Social Justice Books)

South African “mommy blogger” Julie Kynaston offers compelling reasons for exposing kids to a kaleidoscope of characters in literature:

  • It allows every child to see themselves as the hero of the story, but also to see that other kids who may not look like them can be the hero, too
  • They are introduced to multiple narratives and different perspectives from a young age
  • It helps them understand that differences should be celebrated and embraced
  • It encourages kids to develop a healthy self-identity and self-love
  • It enables children to develop empathy with others – and empathy helps combat bullying

Here are some fun-to-read books about diversity to add to your child’s reading list:

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Yes, storytelling not only opens up other worlds – it can also foster an understanding and appreciation of other cultures and lifestyles. Who would have thought that even the ultimate blonde bombshell, Barbie, could evolve to look more like the millions of little girls who adore her around the world?

Here’s a list of outlets that offer a great selection of children’s books:

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