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Talking About Race in Children’s Literature: Commentary and Resources

Talking About Race

Read Roger’s July 7, 2013 blog post A very good question elicited over one hundred comments by authors, illustrators, readers, and activists all eager to discuss the issue of race in children’s books. Not even two weeks later, the Trayvon Martin jurors came back with a not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, and author/illustrator Christopher Myers was inspired to write the piece Young Dreamers about his sadness over the (mis)perception of young black men. And then he went ahead and wrote this upon winning the 2015 CSK Illustrator Award for Firebird. And Jacqueline Woodson wrote this for her 2015 CSK Author Award for Brown Girl Dreaming — and you must read her 1998 article “Who Can Tell My Story.” And Kwame Alexander wrote this for his 2015 CSK Author Honor for The Crossover (didn’t that win some other award too?!). And then Christopher Myers wrote this about the Orlando massacre. And these articles should all be required reading for everyone, everywhere.

We’d like to keep the discussion alive. We will be posting articles and links and discussion points about the topic on this landing page; we’ll let you know via Read Roger, Family Reading, and Out of the Box; Facebook and Twitter (@RogerReads @HornBook) when there’s something new to find.

In February 2016, in honor of Black History Month, we posted a series of articles by and/or about African American luminaries in the field of children’s literature.

All year long, you can be inspired by Andrea Davis Pinkney’s 2013 Coretta Scott King Author Award acceptance speech for Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America (from the July/August 2013 Horn Book Magazine) and by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s 2014 Horn Book at Simmons keynote speech Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers (from the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine) and by Ibi Zoboi’s “A Fine Bookshelf” (from the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine). And by Jerry Pinkney, winner of two 2016 lifetime achievement awards: the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.

On the lighter side, Uma Krishnaswami wrote an article about humor and culture in middle-grade books for the May/June 2012 Horn Book Magazine. And here’s Five Questions for Mitali Perkins about Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, from the August 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Sarah Hannah Gómez on: “Decolonizing Nostalgia: When Historical Fiction Betrays Readers of Color.” From the November/December 2016 Horn Book Magazine. And on the Horn Book Podcast.

Julie Hakim Azzam’s Books in the Home article: “Mommy, Do I Have White Skin?”: Skin Color, Family, and Picture Books. From the November/December 2016 Horn Book Magazine.

Author Kekla Magoon’s “Second Look” at Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. From the September/October 2016 Horn Book Magazine.

Yolanda Hare asks: Where are the books about black geeks like her? From the January/February 2013 Horn Book Magazine.

Four recommended books starring indigenous protagonists and people of color. From the August 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Books to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Roger’s editorial from the September/October 2013 Horn Book Magazine: “Books Built from the Ground Up.”

Gary Soto is done writing children’s books following accusations of racism. Roger responds.

In “What Makes a Good YA Urban Novel?” (November/December 2013 Horn Book Magazine), Randy Ribay discusses what defines excellent books about and for urban teens — and how the term “urban” transcends race.

Betty Carter discusses racism and other themes in Walter Dean Myers’s war “trilogy”: Invasion, Fallen Angels, and Sunrise over Fallujah.

Matt de la Peña on the power of reading and writing for so-called “tough teens.” You can read his 2016 Newbery Award speech for Last Stop on Market Street here.

In the January/February 2014 Horn Book Magazine, Monica Edinger discusses books that introduce young American readers to the diverse aspects of “Africa. Amazing Africa.”

Around the world in four new picture books that embrace diversity.

Civil rights books from the January 2014 Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

Books in remembrance of Nelson Mandela.

Books in remembrance of Maya Angelou.

Black History Month February, 2014, booklist.

Shadra Strickland on being a black woman illustrator. From the March/April 2014 Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Illustration.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! A 2014 Cinco de Mayo booklist.

Read Roger: Plenty of Tables: Children’s Books Boston and the Children’s Books Council’s Diversity “Speed Dating” Event.

Freedom Summer and Black History books; Five Questions for Don Mitchell, author of The Freedom Summer Murders; Books to mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer.

Rita Williams-Garcia’s 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Award acceptance speech and Bryan Collier’s Illustrator Award acceptance speech. You can find more CSK winners here.

From The Guide: Cultural Diversity in Middle-Grade Fiction. From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Zetta Elliott: The Writer’s Page: Decolonizing the Imagination. From the March/April 2010 Horn Book Magazine.

Read Roger: Reviewing race.

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s 2014 Horn Book at Simmons keynote speech Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers. From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

From The Guide: Books to Fill the Gaps. From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Librarian Sara Lissa Paulson on Walter Dean Myers’s legacy: “There Is Work to Be Done.”