An Answer to the Problem of Finding Diverse Children's Books for All Children in All Families
Why is it so hard to find books for children that truly represent the diversity in our world? Author S. Bear Bergman shared with me that in 70% of children’s books where people are featured, boys are the main characters. In 93% of children’s books where people are featured, the main characters are white. In terms of books that feature gender-independent children or LGBT families, the percentage is negligible.
This is very important to families like mine who want to see our own diversity represented in the books our children have access to. Fortunately Bergman has a solution. Flamingo Rampant Publishers has a Kickstarter campaign going on right this very minute to support parents raising diverse-positive children. S. Bear Bergman, an authority on trans issues and a parent himself, founded Flamingo Rampant Publishing to provide all child with diverse characters and stories.
This campaign isn't just a gay-books-for-gay-families kind of thing, though. Consider for a moment the books that do sit in your shelves now – the books that teach children how to see the world – and it's likely they are affected by a lack of diversity of all types. It's essential that all parents, teachers and librarians pay attention to this need.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Children begin to develop an awareness about gender as early as age 2. Preschool-aged children start to notice and ask questions about racial and ethnic differences. As kids get older and make more observations about the people around them, they learn not only who they are and who they are not, but they begin to understand who and what is important. If there are no people of color or various kinds of families, then children learn through their absence that those other people are not important.
I’ll be the first to confess that our collection is very straight and white and male. But I’ll also point out that finding books about trans-identified/gender-independent children takes more effort than simply grabbing Barnes and Noble’s recommendations off a table. Bergman knows the publishing industry all too well. During these dark days when independent bookstores are in decline, we rely on national chains to guide us and supply us with our reading material. They’re looking to make a buck, and their PowerPoint presentations tell them that they’ll appeal to highest number of people and make the biggest number of bucks if they play to the masses-the white, hetero-normative, binary-gendered masses. Powerful girl heroes, LGBT protagonists, kids of color are more often than not absent from the equation. Bookstores will say it’s a matter of supply and demand. Bergman calls bullshit. There are a significant number of parents who would love a diverse set of books but simply can’t find them.
Now, thanks to the Flamingo Rampant Book Club, as parents we'll need not look any further, to start a growing collection. Not only will parents and caregivers have wonderful stories and characters to add to their bedtime routine, but they will be arming themselves with references for those tough situations that every child will face at some point at school or amongst friends.
“A lot of parents don’t know how to talk to kids about oppression or injustice and just end up saying we’re all equal UNTIL something bad happens or when kids hear things they don’t understand and (parents) have to explain what a carpet muncher is,” Bear said. The benefit of having books on the shelves is that parents can refer to stories they’ve read together to initiate conversation. Using the books in the Flamingo Rampant series, they can speak to the values they’re trying to teach their children much as we do with fairy tales that provide valuable messages woven into an entertaining story. Books like M is for Mustache features items of Pride – like beads, flags, glitter and stick-on mustaches – but also values of pride like liberation, justice, community and magic.
Through this time-sensitive campaign, you can pre-order a set of six books that will delivered to you every other month beginning at the start of 2015. The $49,000 they have already achieved enables Flamingo Rampant to cover printing and shipping costs as well as paying their writers and illustrators. Bergman was clear that they are producing high-quality books as opposed to second-rate pamphlets, and they are compensating writers and illustrators for their professional contributions.
This opportunity is available to libraries and schools, as well, but only for the duration of the campaign. After the deadline on Tuesday, August 12th at 10:30 AM EST, there will be a link on the Flamingo Rampant website with more details about participating in the program at some point in the future, but the campaign is the way to ensure participation now.