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What stories are we telling to the children?

May 7, 2011

At the Seattle airport recently, I was asked at a Borders bookstore to contribute to a children’s book drive for the Shriners hospitals.  I agreed and asked the clerk how much was the donation. She pointed to a group of Golden Books and said, “just pick one.”

What a good idea, I thought, enjoying the idea of picking a particular book that would travel to be in a child’s hands.

I looked through them. The books included the Three Little Pigs, a Dick and Jane type book, one on princesses, etc. Without planning to do so, I found myself saying to her, “Wow, these are so white; I’d like to see some people of color in them.”  The white clerk looked at me curiously.

I thought of the children of color in the hospital and imagined them receiving the books.  “I’ve changed my mind,” I told the clerk who was white.

It’s on my list to write Borders and Shriners Hospital to ask questions about how they are helping children of color to read stories that feature people who look like them.

This encounter was a small one.  My hope is that it may have raised a question in the mind of the clerk or anyone in nearby hearing who may never have stopped to think about the privilege of always having someone that looks like you represented in books.

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