Avoiding Racism and Sexism in Children's Books
Children learn attitudes about people from their environment. They learn by observing peoples behaviors and listening to others; by what they view on television; and also by the messages they see and read in books.
It is important for you as parents, teachers, and caretakers of children to be aware of what messages children are learning in the books they read at home, at a child care center or at school. Following are some points to be conscious of:
First, check the pictures and illustrations in the books your children are reading. Are there any stereotypical generalizations about a certain group of people? Are the boys playing physical games and the girls playing with dolls or being protected by the boys? Are people of color representative of people seen in the world? Are people of color in leadership roles or passive roles?
Next, look at the story line. Watch for any insulting phrases or loaded words that denote people as primitive, savage, etc.
You will also want to look for a variety of standards of success. Success is more than being the most athletic, the most wealthy, etc. Make sure that people of color are not the "bad people" or the "problem" in the story.
Another factors for you to observe are the various lifestyles and the relationships between people in the story. Are people of color shown only in poor, single parent families? Does the story encourage differences as positive or negative? If there are white people in the story, are they automatically a middle class family?
As you look at the heroes in the story, whose interest are they serving? In the past many heroes have been safe because they did not challenge mainstream, Caucasian beliefs.
As you look at a book, consider the effect the book will have on every child who may read it. Each child has the right to see themselves in a positive, fair way. Girls as well as boys have the right to perform important deeds. People of any color should be viewed as respectable, capable, and lovable.
Source: University of Minnesota Extension
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