The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™ is a biennial, national survey of children ages 6–17 and their parents, as well as parents of kids ages 0–5, exploring attitudes and behaviors around reading. As data is released throughout the spring of 2019, we’ve asked a handful of our in-house experts to dig more deeply into the report and contextualize its findings. To discuss why books and characters should reflect our diverse world, here is Andrea Davis Pinkney:
As a mom of two very different kids, I’ve always believed in books that reflect a multitude of experiences and perspectives. This is one of the reasons I’ve devoted my life’s work to creating diverse children’s books, both as an author and as Scholastic Vice President, Executive Editor. As a parent, writer, and publisher, my primary purpose is to provide books for kids that help them experience the complexities of a diverse world. And throughout each of my jobs, I witness a basic truth: Kids see what they see, and they don’t see what they don’t see. When a young reader finds a story that positively reflects his or her cultural, familial, or abilities experience, that child becomes empowered to read more, which has a direct impact on how they view their place in the world. And when that reader reads about experiences different from their own, they develop empathy and open-mindedness. Conversely, when kids don’t see books that reflect diverse experiences, they’re not emboldened to expand their thinking.
Thankfully, diversity is central to our publishing mission at Scholastic. We have a credo, part of which says, “We believe in the respect for the diverse groups in our multicultural society.” These words are stenciled on the risers of our corporate headquarters staircase as a celebration of our firm commitment to serving a diverse population of readers. Each and every time I climb those stairs, I can’t help but think that we’re literally supported by our core values which continue to elevate us.
And so, the new data on diversity in this Kids & Family Reading Report is especially helpful. The data underscores our belief that diverse books matter. But parents and teachers often tell me that while they value diversity, they struggle with how to put it into practice. So I share my story: from the time my own kids were babies, I exposed them to diverse stories by reading them aloud. And I learn a lot about my kids’ perceptions of the world’s diversity when we spend time together with books. The same can be done with the children in your life—talk to them about what you’re reading together. Ask questions. Stay interested.
Like every parent, I want so much for my kids. Developing their characters is no small task, but we know that books can lend a helping hand. This is another gift of the Kids & Family Reading Report, which also tells us that families want more from the books they read. Good books go beyond just good stories; kids and parents alike expect books to bring the world to them in all its beautiful shapes, sizes, and colors. I see firsthand that what moves a reader is not just a chain of events that creates a narrative arc—the stories that stick are about the emotions that blossom when a reader connects to a character, experience or place. It’s this connection that empowers readers to be the protagonists of their own stories.
Tomorrow’s leaders may not yet have seen themselves in a book. But we have the power to change that. With the information in this report, we can work toward helping each child find their story. If it isn’t created yet, we can help them tell it.
Andrea Davis Pinkney is the Vice President, Executive Editor for Scholastic Trade Books and is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Martin Rising: Requiem For a King.