When I first think of the word “diversity,” an image of crayons instantly comes to my mind.
Yes, you read that right; I think about crayons. When I was younger, I remember a teacher reciting an old saying to my class about how crayons can show diversity. Even though each crayon is different from the one next to it, they co-exist in the same box. On top of this, they also can make some beautiful pictures when they work together. There are shades of numerous colors. Some have sharp points while others are worn down from overuse. Some of their names are different from anything you’ve ever heard, but they’re still undeniably beautiful. Despite all of their differences that can be seen, they still live in the box together and work together to make unique pictures. So why can’t people do the same?
“We could all learn a lot from crayons. Some are big, some are small. Some are sharp, some are dull. Some are pretty, some are bland. Some are long, some are short. Some have uncommon names. Yet, they learn to live in the same box.”
The Crayon Box of Life: Diversity
Diversity is, in my opinion, important for our nation and the classrooms within it. The United States of America is defined as being a “melting pot” of people from all different backgrounds put together. Since we have many different people living in one place, it’s important to recognize and celebrate the differences of every person. From the readings this week, it’s obvious that our country still has a way to go in this area. Diversity is important because we must allow our students to be able to see life through a different lens. We must also let our students have the opportunity to look into the “mirror” that a book can present to them. Books must be diverse in order to meet the needs of every student; this is one area that can be improved.
The Publication Problem
I’m going to be honest, I never really pay attention to what books I read. I often just grab a book that looks good to me or the one with the story line that sticks out. That being said, these are books that stick out to me; what about the other children and teens who might not have a book that they can relate to?
As I discovered who I was, a black teenager in a white-dominated world, I saw that these characters, these lives, were not mine. I didn’t want to become the “black” representative, or some shining example of diversity. What I wanted, needed really, was to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.-Walter Dean Meyers
When reading the articles on diversity for this week, I found myself astonished. Walter Dean Myers’s article held a statistic from the University of Wisconsin that said only 93 books out of the 3,200 that were published in 2013 were centered around the lives of black people. 93 books. That number shocked me. I find it troubling that this number is so low. Christopher Meyers, in his article The Apartheid of Children’s Literature, discusses the issue further. Meyers points out that despite the reassurance from publishers that they will commit to diversity, it is certainly lacking still. Could it be society holding back? Is there an unwritten rule? These are questions that are posed within the article that I think deserve to be answered.
There is yet another big question that needs to be asked. How are these children supposed to have books that are more than just windows into other peoples’ lives? Professor Rudine Sims Bishop posted an article titled Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors that really clicked for me. The article discusses the fact that books can serve as windows that allow readers to look out into a brand new world that they might never (or can’t ever) enter into. For me, this window includes books such as Twilight (it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to make a reference. It feels good) and Girls Like Us. These books offer a perspective into a completely different life, and it really benefitted me to be able to take a look into that life. Other books can function as mirrors, showing us a reflection of ourselves through the novel. Readers can look and see references to our own lives and experiences. Both situations are vital, but with the lack of diversity in novels, are everyone’s needs being met? To me, the answer is simple: no. No, everyone is not getting what they individually need from novels. Bishop states that “children… Have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others.” Children need to understand the diverse world that they live in, and books can give them an idea of different backgrounds that are all around them.
They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in, and their place as a member of just one group, as well as their connections to all other humans. In this country, where racism is still one of the major unresolved social problems, books may be one of the few places where children who are socially isolated and insulated from the larger world may meet people unlike themselves.- Professor Rudine Sims Bishop
It’s obvious to me that, in the words of Walter Dean Meyers, “there is work to be done.” What can we do now? Even though we are not publishers or in charge of that side of the business, we can still help our students. We can truly embrace and celebrate diversity and what all of it entails. We can buy and read books that will help us to diversify our reading and help children find books that are not only windows, but also mirrors into their souls. Let’s become friendly with the crayons around us. After all, most prefer a colorful, vibrant sunset to a gray afternoon. Differences make a beautiful picture. It’s time that we start to actually realize and embrace that.