Zoobean is a great tool for parents, guardians, and even educators to help find great books for children.
And the most useful tool, in my opinion, is that you have many filters set up to tailor your preferences - two major ones are Language and Ethnicity.
Having this gives you the opportunity to look for books that suit your family needs, because families are all different and unique in their own ways.
What I recommend you do after you’ve found the book or books you want or need, is to head on over to WorldCat and search for the title to see if you can find it at your local library to check it out!
Zoobean is still a beta website, so it will probably adapt and change as they see fit for their user needs. This means if you see something they can add or edit, let them know! There is also an option to suggest books, so it also becomes a community project where you can suggest books you found useful to others possibly looking for the same thing!
I read a very interesting story on Yahoo News today about an article that caused a lot of uproar - the author stated that old books that use racist language should not be changed and censored. A little girl wrote in her own words how she believed the author was wrong. I fully agree with the little girl that these books make children feel horrible - but I believe this is beyond censoring. Those books need to just be put away where kids cannot find them until they are older and can understand the nuances of race issues of the past, and replace them with books that teach children better things.
These are her words
You’re in luck that I’m at least writing this letter to you in my best handwriting because I am very angry at you. Why should it not be prohibited to write ‘Neger’ in children’s books? One has to be able to put oneself in somebody else’s shoes. Because my father is Senegalese, and he is a very dark shade of brown; I am café-au-lait brown. Just imagine if you were Afro-German and lived in Germany. You’re a newspaper reader and unsuspectingly buy the ZEIT of January 17th 2013. Suddenly, you note the article ‘The Little Witch Hunt.’ This is when you read that the word ‘Neger’ is supposed to be deleted from children’s books, and that this would allegedly spoil the children’s books. I find it totally shit that this word would remain in children’s books if it were up to you. You cannot imagine how I feel when I have to read or hear that word. It is simply very, very terrible. My father is not a ‘Neger’ [lightning bolt sign] nor am I. This is also true for all other Africans. Right. That was my opinion. This word should be deleted from children’s books.
Ishema Kane, 9 1/2 years old
Where do you stand in this issue? This isn’t just a problem in Germany, but everywhere. Stand up for your children.
Read more about it here.
Reprinted from Rethinking Our Classrooms, published by Rethinking Schools (www.rethinkingschools.org), 1994. Adapted from a longer article that appeared in the Bulletin of the Council on Interracial Books for Children, which is no longer published.
“Both in school and out, young children are exposed to racist and sexist attitudes. These attitudes - expressed over and over in books and in other media-gradually distort their perceptions until stereotypes and myths about minorities and women are accepted as reality. It is difficult for a librarian or teacher to convince children to question society’s attitudes. But if a child can be shown how to detect racism and sexism in a book, the child can proceed to transfer the perception to wider areas. The following ten guidelines are offered as a starting point in evaluating children’s books from this perspective.”
1. Check the illustrations
Look for Stereotypes. A stereotype is an oversimplified generalization about a particular group, race, or sex, which usually carries derogatory implications. In addition to blatant stereotypes, look for variations which in anyway demean or ridicule characters because of their race or sex. Look for Tokenism. If there are non-white characters in the illustrations, do they look just like whites except for being tinted or colored in? Do all minority faces look stereotypically alike, or are they depicted as genuine individuals with distinctive features?
Who’s Doing What? Do the illustrations depict minorities in subservient and passive roles or in leadership and action roles? Are males the active “doers” and females the inactive observers.
2. Check the Story Line
The Civil Rights Movement led publishers to weed out many insulting passages, particularly from stories with Black themes, but the attitudes still find expression in less obvious ways. The following checklist suggests some of the subtle (covert) forms of bias to watch for.
Standard for Success. Does it take “white” behavior standards for a person of color to “get ahead”? Is “making it” in the dominant white society projected as the only ideal? To gain acceptance and approval, do people of color have to exhibit extraordinary qualities-excel in sports, get A’s, etc.? In friendships between white children and children of color, is it the child of color who does most of the understanding and forgiving?
Resolution of Problems. Now are problems presented, conceived, and resolved in the story? Are people of color considered to be “the problcm? “Are the oppressions faced by people of color and women represented as causally related to an unjust society? Are the reasons for poverty and oppression explained, or are they just accepted as inevitable? Does the story line encourage passive acceptance or active resistance? Is a particular problem that is faced by a person of color resolved through the benevolent intervention of a white person?
Role of Women. Are the achievements of girls and women based on their own initiative and intelligence, or are they due to their good looks or to their relationship with boys? Are sex roles incidental or critical to characterization and plot? Could the same story be told if the sex roles were reversed?
3. Look at the Lifestyles
Are people of color and their setting depicted in such a way that they contrast unfavorably with the unstated norm of white middle-class suburbia? If the non-white group is depicted as “different,” are negative value judgments implied? Are people of color depicted exclusively in ghettos, barrios, or migrant camps? If the illustrations and text attempt to depict another culture, do they go beyond oversimplifications and offer genuine insights into another lifestyle? Look for inaccuracy and inappropriateness in the depiction of other cultures. Watch for instances of the “quaint-natives-in-costume” syndrome (most noticeable in areas like costume and custom, but extending to behavior and personality traits as well).
4. Weigh the Relationships Between People
Do the whites in the story possess the power, take the leadership, and make the important decisions? Do people of color and females function in essentially supporting roles? How are family relationships depicted? In African-American families, is the mother always dominant? In Latino families, are there always lots of children? If the family is separated, are societal conditions - unemployment, poverty - cited among the reasons for the separation?
5. Note the Heroes
For many years, books showed only “safe” non-white heroes - those who avoided serious conflict with the white establishment of their time. People of color are insisting on the right to define their own heroes (of both sexes), based on their own concepts and struggles for justice. When minority heroes do appear, are they admired for the same qualities that have made white heroes famous for because what they have done has benefited white people? Ask this question: “Whose interest is a particular figure really sewing?”
6. Consider the Effects on a Child’s Self Image
Are norms established which limit the child’s aspirations and self-concepts? What effect can it have on African-American children to be continuously bombarded with images of the color white as the ultimate in beauty, cleanliness, virtue, etc., and the color black as evil, dirty, menacing, etc.? Does the book counteract or reinforce this positive association with the color white and negative association with black?
What happens to a girl’s self-esteem when she reads that boys perform all of the brave and important deeds? What about a girl’s self-esteem if she is not “fair” of skin and slim of body?
In a particular story, is there one or more person with whom a child of color can readily identify to a positive and constructive end?
7. Consider the Author or Illustrators Background
Analyze the biographical material on the jacket flap or the back of the book. If a story deals with a multicultural theme, what qualifies the author or illustrator to deal with the subject? If the author and illustrator are not members of the group being written about, is there anything in their background that would specifically recommend them as the creators of this book? The same criteria apply to a book that deals with the feelings and insights of women or girls.
8. Check Out the Author’s Perspective
No author can be wholly objective. All authors write out of a cultural as well as personal context. Children’s books in the past have traditionally come from white, middle-class authors, with one result being that a single ethnocentric perspective has dominated American children’s literature.
With the book in question, look carefully to determine whether the direction of the author’s perspective substantially weakens or strengthens the value of his/her written work. Are omissions and distortions central to the overall character or “message” of the book?
9. Watch for Loaded Words
A word is loaded when it has insulting overtones. Examples of loaded adjectives (usually racist) are “savage, “primitive, “conniving,” “lazy,” “superstitious,” “treacherous,” “wily, “crafty, “inscrutable,” “docile,” and “backward.”
Look for sexist language and adjectives that exclude or ridicule women. Look for use of the male pronoun to refer to both males and females. The following examples show how sexist language can be avoided: “ancestors” instead of “forefathers;” “firefighters” instead of “firemen;” “manufactured” instead of “manmade;” the “human family” instead of the “family of man.”
10. Look at the Copyright Date
Books on “minority” themes – usually hastily conceived - suddenly began appearing in the mid-1960s. There followed a growing number of “minority experience” books to meet the new market demand, but most of these were still written by white authors, edited by white editors, and published by white publishers. They therefore reflected a white point of view. Only recently has the children’s book world begun to even remotely reflect the realities of a multiracial society or the concerns of feminists.
The copyright dates, therefore, can be a clue as to how likely the book is to be overtly racist or sexist, although a recent copyright date is no guarantee of a book’s relevance or sensitivity. The copyright date only means the year the book was published. It usually takes a minimum of a year - and often much more than that-from the time a manuscript is submitted to the publisher to the time it is actually printed and put on the market. This time-lag meant very little in the past, but in a time of rapid change and changing consciousness, when children’s book publishing is attempting to be “relevant,” it is increasingly significant.
This is an update to this post, which as written in mid 2011 because it shows statistics for children’s books published in 2011.
This Census article from March 2011, states that
More than half of the growth in the total U.S. population between 2000 and 2010 was because of the increase in the Hispanic population. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010. The rise in the Hispanic population accounted for more than half of the 27.3 million increase in the total U.S. population. By 2010, Hispanics comprised 16 percent of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million.
The non-Hispanic population grew relatively slower over the decade at about 5 percent. Within the non-Hispanic population, the number of people who reported their race as white alone grew even slower (1 percent). While the non-Hispanic white alone population increased numerically from 194.6 million to 196.8 million over the 10-year period, its proportion of the total population declined from 69 percent to 64 percent.
Interesting facts on their own, but then compare it to statistics like these that are independently run by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Click HERE to see their ongoing research on children’s book on and by people of color since 2002.
2011 saw a decline in books by and about African Americans and Latino/Hispanics, but saw a small increase in books by and about Native Americans and the breadth of Asian Americans.
If the Census is clearly showing us that Hispanics are becoming an ever present majority along with other minorities…why are they such a small percentage of these books published dedicated for minorities?
It works out so that roughly out of these 5,000 or so books published each year, only 5% of that 5,000 will be for all minorities. 16% (that means 1 in 6) of the population in the US is of Hispanic/Latino descent,. But the book statistics from show that roughly 1 in 75 books are by or about Latinos.
What about Asians? African Americans? American Indians? The numbers are equally appalling. Even more so when you realize that you have to take into consideration that there are many different nationalities that cannot be lumped up into one book. Of those yearly books on Hispanics, how many are about Mexico in comparison to Guatemala or Chile?
It is a lot to take in. It’s quite scary too. So I will be showing books that beat the odds, publishers that are making an effort, and what you can do (we can all do something!).
The most important and easiest thing to do right now, is contact your school and public libraries and demand more books that represent a diverse group of children. Contact publishing houses and ask them what they are doing to close the gap? Encourage authors and illustrators with diverse backgrounds to make books for children. The more voices they hear from, the more pressure they will have to do something. Make your voice heard, stand up for your kids and your families now.
I recently came across what could be considered a sister blog to mine and is created by a former classmate of mine. Debbie describes her blog as
“A PLACE TO STUDY AND CONSIDER IMAGES THAT ARE—OR ARE MEANT TO BE—OF AMERICAN INDIANS. THAT IS, ANIMALS OR NON-INDIANS, PLAYING INDIAN. DRESSING UP LIKE INDIANS. WITH THE OCCASIONAL ‘REAL’ INDIAN, MISREPRESENTED.”
She is also studying to become a librarian as I am, and her ventures in this blog are important to spread the word that these old images portrayed of Native Americans are NOT okay now because it perpetuates many stereotypes.
It reminds me of a book I recently found and will soon be covering, Let’s be Indians by Peggy Parish (this is the same Peggy Parish who wrote the Amelia Bedelia books)
The problem here is that dressing up as a Native American is not a Halloween costume, you can’t just pretend to be one without offending many other people. This goes equally for Geisha costumes or any other ethnic costume - just avoid them. It speaks volumes that Caucasian people for centuries try to oppress a culture then on top of that, demean it by devaluing it’s cultural dress.
Debbie’s blog Images of Indians in Children’s Books is a great resource for those interested in seeing more specific examples of bad stereotypes towards the Native American culture.