Pin It
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Open Letter to Barnes & Noble


Dear Barnes & Noble,

 

We love the diverse selection of books you offer and how much fun our children have browsing through books and games every time we come in to your store. We frequently purchase books for presents on our way to a birthday party but we always notice something is missing when we browse the children’s section: more multicultural children’s literature.

 

The U.S. is a multicultural country. Where we live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we frequently hear many languages and see many types of families around us in Barnes & Noble browsing books.  However your book selection for children does not reflect the diversity in our country. While many of the books you have are our favorites, we can’t help but feel the selection is very limited.

 

There are many reasons why reading multicultural books is important for our children. We recently published an article on 10 Reasons Parents Should Read Multicultural Books to Kids and wanted to summarize why we feel this is so crucial for all children:

 

1. It is important that books reflect the diversity that exists in societies today. A book that includes people of different ethnicities presents a more realistic picture to a child. Even board boards can achieve this. “Babies” by Gyo Fujikawa is a great example. Published in the sixties, it was the first children’s book to show infants of different races.

 

2. Understanding cultures enhances the understanding of experiences of those we interact with. This helps children develop empathy towards peers, nurturing meaningful relationships in classrooms and playgrounds. I love the book “My Friend Mei Jing” by Anna McQuinn, which celebrates a cross-cultural friendship between school-going girls, Mei Jing and Monifa.

 

3. A language (or linguistic diversity) is a tangible form of realizing cultural differences.  Picture book stories set in a cultural backdrop often scatter words in the affiliated language. This is both fun and fascinating for kids. Bilingual books are also a wonderful way to introduce and experience languages.

 

4. Books that take us back to our cultural roots are always valuable. These books open up discussions about family ancestry and heritage. They also help children identify family traditions and find answers to why they eat specific foods or dress a certain way. “The Keeping Quilt” by Patricia Polacco is a heartwarming story spanning several generations and traditions—it dates back to the author’s great-grandmother’s initial immigrant days (from Eastern Europe) in America.

 

5. Loaded with cultural nuances, multicultural literature often comes with geographical and historical details as well. Besides being informative, it also heightens a child’s global awareness. I am reminded of Amadi, in the book “Amadi’s Snowman” by Katia Novet-Saint-Lot. The Nigerian village boy is intrigued by the picture of a “strange-looking man” (a snowman!) he chances upon in a book. This actually makes him want (to learn) to read!

 

6. Mainstream books, sadly, have a tendency to stereotype. The media is notorious for its clichéd portrayals, like the skewed images of Africa or the Middle East. Children’s literature in no exception. Multicultural books dispel misconceptions and break stereotypes associated with a specific culture.

 

7. It is natural for us to try to relate to a character or story as part of the reading experience or to assert our own identities. This becomes particularly important for children of immigrant, biracial and bicultural parents.  Multicultural choices include their unique experiences and address unique challenges they face. Pooja Makhijani’s “Mama’s Saris” has been a favorite at our home for several years now. My daughter and I easily identify with the context—a seven-year-old Indian-American girl delights in her mom’s collection of colorful ethnic wear, a common scenario in our own house!

 

8. “Multicultural” often encompasses stories focusing on divergent themes that step outside the dominant social and cultural structure. These include issues like adoption, racism, divorce, war, sexual orientation and gender stereotyping, to name a few. The anti-bias approach of these books better represents the community we are part of, with its differences stretching even beyond cultures and skin colors.

 

9.Not all of us can travel wherever we like, whenever we want. But books can take us to faraway place while still in the comfort of our home. Publishers like Hartlyn Kids and Itchee Feet offer books that provide this enriching experience for children.

 

10. Ultimately, books that open up the world are essential for a child’s well-balanced reading diet. When children grow up exposed to diverse cultures, people and places, they become much more open to exploring broader possibilities in careers, relationships and decision-making as parents or leaders.  Without ignorance and prejudices inhibiting them, they can be prepared for wherever life takes them and whatever life brings.

 

In honor of Independence Day, we certainly hope you will consider carrying more multicultural books to better reflect all of the children that make up our nation. As you are one of the major book retailers in the U.S., the power to influence families’ reading choices rests largely in your hands. You share in the responsibility to affect positive change in what our younger generation is reading and we hope you can recognize the importance of multicultural children’s literature. We are happy to help give you suggestions but most of all, we will be so pleased when we can find a wider selection of diverse books the next time we go to your store.

 

Sincerely,

Stephanie Meade and Meera Sriram
InCultureParent.com

© 2012 – 2013, The Editors. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


10 Things Not to Say to Parents of Multilingual Children

Have you been guilty of any of these?

A Different World: No Longer Brown in White America

Is it racist to not want to raise your kids in white America?

A Different World: No Longer Brown in White America

Is it racist to not want to raise your kids in white America?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


InCultureParent is an online magazine for parent's raising little global citizens. Centered on global parenting culture and traditions, we feature articles on parenting around the world and on raising multicultural and multilingual children.

Leave us a comment!

3 Comments
  1. CommentsDo you want to see more multicultural books at Barnes & Noble? | InCultureParent   |  Tuesday, 03 July 2012 at 1:18 pm

    […] them a letter, you are free to grab ours and tweak it as you see fit. Here is a link to our letter: http://www.incultureparent.com/2012/07/open-letter-to-barnes-noble/ No comments PRINT […]

  2. CommentsGenie Chow   |  Wednesday, 03 October 2012 at 2:57 pm

    As an author and illustrator for children’s books who is soon to be self-published, I would really like to see more multicultural books such as mine at Barnes & Noble. I have been a loyal customer in the past and want to continue on, possibly to have my own books(self-promotion, humbly obliged) there one day to contribute to the world.

  3. CommentsMartha   |  Tuesday, 02 April 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I am glad I came across this article. I am all for multicultural books.









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
Hi Kim! I am so glad that this article was useful for you and made you feel validated as a parent. It's not often in this judgmental world of parenting we get that, right?! That's the main reason...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
I love reading your work. I can olny imagine what it would be like to have such beautiful customs and true community. I understand why it is so very very important to keep these traditions alive. Be...
From No Kids Allowed: How Kenyan Weddings are Changing
Your mother in-law seems somewhat reasonable. Many Chinese Mother In-laws are not. In their scenario, they would be number 1 to the child and you would be number two. Many want to have a bond closer...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
I think Konstantina is actually responding to what is probably more familiar/praised/or preferred socially as well. I was an English teacher in Poland with a distinct accent. I struggled to get Engl...
From Should I Worry about My Child’s Accent in Her Foreign Language?
Noor Kids' title "First Time Fasting" is another great rea...
From 6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan
This article was shared in a community I run to connect globetrotting parents and everyone LOVED it. You should join us! We all relate to your experience. Many of us, including me, are in the same b...
From Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get
Please help: I Love my wife and my son. I am also EXTREMELY involved as a dad. I had to move to china ( in a tiny tiny town) where I am the only foreigner so that my wife can take over the family bu...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
Thanks for writing this!! My baby is 7 months, and I love having her sleep in my room. I don't mention it too often to people who have had kids because they seem a little judgy on it. So tonight I...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
Honestly, it looks like the author married into a very backward and old fashioned family. Not stimulating children's curiosity, differences between boys and girls, and women slaving in the house, wh...
From French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family

More Multicultural Books, Etc.