Last week I spoke with mother and son authors Betty K. Bynum and Joshua B. Drummond about their recently released title, I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! Bynum is also the author of two titles for girls, I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl! and I’m a Lovely Little Latina!
The story that I wrote appears in the latest issue of the Urban Views Weekly.
Before our chat I watched a clip of the pair on the Steve Harvey Show during which Bynum gave 2013 statistics on the numbers of books published in the United States about African/African American children. I was stunned by the low number she quoted; more so to find that 2015 statistics showed no real improvement.
Chart from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that tracks children’s books by and about people of color annually. Their full publishing statistics can be viewed here.
The fact that there is a real need among children of color to have books that they can see themselves reflected in was part of what drove the success of Bynum’s first book, I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl!, and generated a cry for a book aimed at boys. I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy! is a collaboration between Bynum and her son, and it attracted high-profile support in its hashtag campaign: #Bbrillliant.
But there are other reasons for promoting diversity in children’s literature. The Association for Library Service to Children addressed this issue in an April 2014 white paper titled The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. It states that “diverse, culturally authentic materials in library collections allow all children to meet people like themselves and develop an appreciation for the beauty of their culture and the cultures of others.”
Noah Berlatsky wrote a piece whose title gives us another reason for greater diversity, The Answer to Implicit Racism Might Be In Children’s Literature. In it Berlatsky says:
If white people are going to stop being racist, they need more than just will — they need a culture that supports anti-racism. Diverse kids’ literature gives children of color a chance to see themselves as heroes, which is vital. But smart, thoughtful books with non-white protagonists can also give white children a chance to see black people and people of color as something other than anxiety-producing others or stereotypes
The campaign (which I used as the title of this post), #WeNeedDiverseBooks produced a video that starts with a quote by the writer Junot Diaz, “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”
Drummond definitely feels that’s what I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! does – gives boys something that they can see themselves in. “It was just a very simple story, partially about my life, but mainly for the kids out there,” he said. “All the little boys with their friends out there at school and hanging out at the park. I wanted to create something that they could really connect with to fill the void that was out there.”
*Photo credit Daniel Lobo – Creative Commons