“What I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”–Junot Diaz
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
These two quotes reflect two complementary viewpoints that we admire.
All kids deserve to hear and read stories told about someone who looks like them, with whom they can identify. It builds confidence, a sense of opportunity and possibility, a sense of belonging.
It’s also important that kids hear and read stories about characters–and places and situations–that are foreign to them. It fosters open-mindedness and feeds a broader sense of community and curiosity.
Diversity in kids publishing, we believe, addresses both these needs. Include first, then expand.
In the past, some publishers have tried to address both needs by insisting that everything already is for everybody–rarely true–or by trying to smooth out all differences, using the melting pot to make gruel.
For example, a former colleague of mine started working at a children’s book company where the marketing team made them reject a book because it had snow in it. They said, “The kids in California won’t be able to relate.” So no Snowy Day, no Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Obviously that’s a crazy, overly literal line of reasoning.
If kids, first, have seen enough material that includes them that they believe and expect that they’re intended to be included, then, when they confront a character or situation that seems new and different, they will find ways to connect themselves to it. They’re smart like that.
Sitting in an Indian airport during an interminable flight delay, I saw German kids and Indian kids–who couldn’t understand a single word that each other said–play a well-organized game of tag. It had rules, it had fair play.
Studies show that “third-culture kids”–those who grow up in a culture different from the one their parents belong to, or who travel extensively–can empathize and connect with more, different people; they often become leaders. Some trend-watchers argue that these third-culture kids are the future; that they have the open-mindedness and the mental flexibility that the twenty-first century increasingly requires.
Similarly, psychologists and sociologists note that kids exposed to more ideas and people from different backgrounds will find it easier to get along with and work with others in the future.
So how do we raise open-minded kids?
First, foster that sense that they belong. And then, as lifehack.org writes in “10 Things of Remember if You Want to Raise Your Kids to Be Open-minded,” “Help your kids develop critical thinking and teach them to make independent judgements… read stories about different cultures . . . Choose books and movies where the main characters are not necessarily [like them].”
Sounds good. Stories can help.
Share and Connect–Building a Bliss Community
How do you think we can inspire kids to be open-minded and ready for the twenty-first century?