Kids got the Wrong Books?

by NickG on November 13, 2016 - 9:42pm

Amina Chaudhri and William H. Teale did a study called “Stories of Multiracial Experiences in Literature for Children, Ages 9–14” (2013) and the study wanted to see stories of multiracial experiences in literature for children. The study is looking for racial discrimination in books that children read (9- 14 years old), the studied books for children that are based on a multiracial main character. The study starts by showing that literature is a tool for people and kids in order to build an identity, which is most important for children. The study used a systematic approach to the analysis of the books, which reduces bias and chance of human error. Chaudhri and Teale also analyzed the books with dominant ideological perspectives of today’s society. The stories were put into 3 categories which were, mixed race in invisibility and visibility, mixed race blending and mixed race awareness. The most important one is invisibility and visibility, as being mix race in the story is the source of conflict. 90 books were studied starting from a list of 157; they were chosen and filtered through by many means, which the study required. The study searched for a description of history concerning multiracial characters in the 90 books, but also if the book sustains or changes the social construct of race. The main finding is one out of three books, have a character that is mixed race, and that racial identity creates conflicts in the story. This follows the marginal man theory where the character is in a struggle with his or her identity. In all the 90 books the characters that are mixed race added to the current main problem or quest the character had to face, making things worst because of racial identity. 34 percent of the books showed being multiracial is problematic for the characters. The study also showed that half of the books characters which are mixed race lived urban areas. In half of all the books studied the main character had at least one parent absent. The study also found that books that had historical context have a lot of racial stereotypes. And finally books for children that have a mix race protagonist make 1 percent of the market.

My opinion about this study is there is discrimination in books that have conflicts based simply on their racial identity. It proves that books that have historical context have racial stereotypes. It proves that books that have mixed race characters are sadly also a minority.  It surprised me that even with our modern multicultural North America, that mix race protagonist books are only 1 percent of children’s books. Making that 1 percent grow exponentially would help our children gain more diverse point of views and counter racism. It also shocks me that most books that have historical context, have stereotypes linked to race, and so are racist. What I found lacking in this study is the possible impacts this has on society, but more importantly on minorities and multiracial individuals. As these books are addressed to kids, and learn from them. So if a kid gets a book with historical context, it will mostly likely reinforce the social construct of racial stereotypes. And the probability that kids are going to fall on books with a mix race protagonist is almost none. This affects minorities and the dominant groups. For the dominant group, it sustains the social construct of race and racism, by either having racist content but by also having a lack of book diversity. For the minorities, it forces stereotypes on them and so lowers their confidence. And so children books need more diversity and resist racism, for our children and our future. 

Bibliography

Chaudhri, A., & Teale, W. (2013). Stories of Multiracial Experiences in Literature for Children, Ages 9-14. Children's Literature In Education, 44(4), 359-376. doi:10.1007/s10583-013-9196-5

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