April 6, 2017
Scholastic surveyed about 3,000 parents and children from different cultural backgrounds to learn about families’ reading preferences and book access. The results revealed that parents and children are not always on the same page when it comes to what kids want in a book. I travel around the country speaking at education conferences and talking to educators and parents. During these conversations, I often find myself asking adults this question, “What do you think most children look for when choosing a book?” The most common answer I receive is “They want to see characters that look like them.” Please say it with me: “WRONG!” Not bad, but wrong.
I wish I knew how to spell that annoying buzzer sound you hear on game shows when a person says the wrong answer, so I can insert it above. I don’t know if it’s because I’m black or because I’m always preaching about how adults can inspire black boys to read that leads people to give me the same tired answer, but it’s wrong. According to Scholastic’s survey, most children look for books that will make them laugh. And I would venture to say this is even more true for boys.
African American children’s book characters and humor shouldn’t be mutually exclusive but too often they are. I dare you to name 5 laugh out loud stories with African American main characters. They exist, but there should be a lot more funny picture books with black characters. If many black children are in fact looking for funny, silly books that will make them laugh, an entire generation of future black readers depends on adults’ willingness to set aside their reading preferences and judgments in favor of children’s books that are most likely to make children laugh.
Until there’s more diversity in children’s humor books, super-black parents need to hold your noses and buy that funny book about a hilarious white kid – if it will spark your child’s passion for reading. Or you can buy my hilariously gross book, Gross Greg, about a young African American boy who loves eating his boogers despite the protest of everyone he encounters. Yes, this is a shameless plug, but it’s also relevant to the content of this blog post.
Thanks for reading!