Here are five questions that’ll help you and your students discern messages about race in stories. Try these in the classroom, and my guess is that you may end up engaging teens who had seemed reluctant to share their literary opinions.
One caveat: it was hard to cite books written by fellow authors as examples, especially those titles that are written beautifully and are popular with young readers. But my hope is to spur the children’s book community to be more thoughtful and proactive about how and why we write, read, and talk about race. So here goes.
1. Are the nonwhite characters too good to be true?
2. How and why does the author define race?
3. Is the cover art true to the story?
4. Who are the change agents?
5. How is beauty defined?
None of these questions are really new--this discussion has been ongoing within the children's book world for decades--but it is always worthwhile to consider them again, perhaps with the couple of books you've read most recently in mind.