Can you define and describe the meaning of representation in children’s books?
To me, representation means children are able to find themselves on the pages they read. That the books that fill shelves in homes, stores, classrooms, and libraries relate to the children reading them in an authentic and meaningful way. That diverse characters remind children of themselves especially when it comes to overcoming, but also give a glimpse into the experiences of others. Authentic representation allows for this to happen, enabling children to engage with what Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop called mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.
What are the topics and themes of the research that you do related to Children’s Books/Representation in children’s literature and can you name 1 or 2 of the published book chapters or journal articles that contain this research?
Research Themes –
- Does diversity on a book cover influence a child’s want to read a book?
- Are there themes present within published books related to representation?
- Does the inclusion of diverse characters influence the quality of narratives children tell?
Research Publications –
Her Dissertation completed in 2019 - Is there a relationship between the race of a character and the story children tell? Analyzing whether race of a picture book character is associated with narrative quality of children’s stories and the books children prefer?
JaNay E. Brown-Wood & Emily J. Solari (2021) Judging books by covers: Exploring antiblackness and Asian and Hispanic children preferences, The Journal of Educational Research, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2020.1865863
Name and discuss 3 to 5 key findings from your research on children’s books and representation.
I am currently in the early stages of my research agenda, but thus far, my studies suggest that children’s book preferences can be influenced by the race of the characters.
What children’s books have you had published? What books will you be releasing in 2021? Are there any in the pipeline that you can discuss? Here are her books that are published or in process –
- Jam, Too (Forthcoming 2023, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House)
- On Our Way (Forthcoming, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House)
- The Where in the Garden Series (Forthcoming 2021, Peachtree Publishing Inc.)
- Too-Small Tyson (Forthcoming, Charlesbridge Publishing Inc.)
- Shh! The Baby’s Asleep (Forthcoming 2021, Charlesbridge Publishing Inc.)
- Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story! (2017, Charlesbridge Publishing Inc.)
- Imani’s Moon (2014, Charlesbridge Publishing Inc.)
She is also super excited to say that she is in the process of signing several new contracts and has some other cool work to come!
Tell us more specifically about the representation in your books and the main characters in your books and why they are important.
I feel that the characters in all my books are important, since they can provide mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors for children. However, I’d say that Imani from my first book IMANI’S MOON is especially an influential book for children to read. Imani encounters struggles, bullying, and obstacles that children can relate to, such as being told “no.” In the case of mirrors, children can internalize an “I can do it, too” mentality despite difficult circumstances. Also, the setting of IMANI’S MOON may be different than children in the US are used to, so the setting can exemplify a window into another child’s experience, and a sliding glass door by allowing readers to step into Imani’s world. This book also encapsulated my own perseverance in fiction writing – many “no’s” that eventually turned to yesses through my hard work, persistence, help from others, and belief in myself.
What is your hope for the future in terms of representation in children’s books and the children’s literature community?
I hope to see more varied representation in the children’s literature community at every level – publishers, editors, agents, writers, illustrators, and books. I also hope to keep writing books that resonate with readers.
Any other comments you would like to make? How can those who are interested in your books purchase them?
I want children’s literature to be a space of transformation for children that helps them to feel seen, build empathy & compassion for others, and become lifelong readers & learners. To purchase my books, please go to my website to find links. Also, my books can be found other places where books are sold such as, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, your local Indie.