Authors of children’s books have a considerable impact, or “fingerprint” on kids’ world outlook. In an interview with Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an expert on children's literature at the Graduate School of Education, she explains that if kids’ understanding of their idea of self is not represented, or marginalized, they internalize that effect deeply.
Rather than strive for characters that evade racial categorization, Thomas advises authors to be deliberate and inclusive in portraying major characters and secondary characters alike. Much of children’s literature, but especially the fantasy genre, reflects heavily on the historical white male canon of literature, and establishes an “us versus other” worldview, with the other being dark-skinned or foreign.
The current evidence of the effect that underrepresentation has on kids is all anecdotal. Thomas wants to see more empirical research done in this field. What happens when kids are exposed to representation and diversity in literature early? “If they get that narratives can be about different people when they are young, maybe they won't need to react so harshly to de-centering.”
Read the full Q&A here.