Over the past few years, there has been a surge of interracial families appearing in popular TV shows and being featured in prime time commercials. This representation has sparked discussion and highlights the growing percentage of interracial families and biracial/multiracial children. Recent studies have shown that over 8.5% of all marriages in the US are between individuals of different races or Hispanic ethnicity, and over 15% of new marriages in 2010 alone were interracial. As the face of America begins to change, it raises the question, “Are children’s books accurately representing modern families?” which may make you wonder, “Why do they need to?”
While infants as young as six months old have been shown to recognize differences in skin color, children as young as three begin to display attitudes about different races. Picture books can be excellent tools in explaining the differences and similarities between races and cultures and can showcase socially accepted behavior in and reactions to the multicultural world. Multicultural books in particular can also aid in identity formation and improve self-esteem for multiracial children.
Currently in the United States, there are over 9 million multiracial Americans (more than 8% of the minority population). Hispanic/White is the most common combination in interracial families with Asian/White and then Black/White following. Unfortunately, there currently exists only a handful of available, picture books that feature these families, and finding these books can be a challenge as many are lumped in with “multicultural” labels or are completely unidentified. Within these titles, there is also evidence that the families represented do not match current population statistics.
- Even though Hispanic/White and Black/White families are 1st and 3rd in population statistics, the majority of interracial picture books show Black/White families, followed by Asian/White. An even smaller percentage shows Hispanic/White.
- The majority of multiracial children’s books feature families that live in multicultural or predominantly minority communities. Very few show interracial families that live in predominantly White communities.
- Most interracial families in picture books depict minority mothers and White fathers. However, the opposite is true for the population, particularly in Black/White and Hispanic(Latino)/White families.
While research has shown that most “multicultural” books have been written by White authors, more recent books that depict interracial families are coming from authors and illustrators that are telling their own stories, or those of their loved ones. This indicates the present and increasing need for diverse authors and illustrators. While there are other factors that contribute to the discrepancies identified above, encouraging diverse authors to share their personal, real-life stories, and demanding more accurate portrayals of families from publishers may eventually resolve most of those gaps and insufficiencies.
The look of America is changing, and so is Boone County. As we become a more diverse community, we want all of our children to feel normal, included, and accepted. They need to see themselves in the books they read. They need to be exposed to different kinds of families, and we need to have the resources to help them.
If you’re looking for a great list of multiracial picture books, check out this Goodreads list and check out BCPL’s Diversity picture book category. Every month, BCPL provides opportunities for local writers, young and old, to share their work and receive feedback and encouragement. We welcome you to come explore our diverse collection and share your own stories at our Writer’s Group, Teen Writer Tuesday, or Middle School Writers Group.
Dawna Neil is the Teen Librarian at the Scheben Branch of BCPL. She is a former admissions counselor and teacher and a graduate from the University of North Carolina where she focused her research on the representation of multiracial children and families in children’s literature.
- 2012 Pew Research Center report, The Rise of Intermarriage
- Library Quarterly’s, Inside Board Books: Representations of People of Color
University of North Carolina’s, Mixed & Matched: the Representation of Interracial Families in Children’s Books