On Friday, The New York Times reported that more non-White children were born in the U.S. than White children. It’s official. The future of the U.S. is a Brown one.
If you’re a children’s writer, you’d better give a damn.
Just take a look at the U.S. Department of Education’s statistics on reading patterns amongst families who read to their children every day.
67% of White children
60% of Asian children
37% of Hispanic children
35% of Black children
If the differences don’t make you sit up, they should.
My own experience growing up as a child of Latino immigrants fits in with these numbers. I don’t recall having one book as a child. We never went to the library, and we were to poor to walk into a bookstore. I was introduced to books in school, and when I was old enough to go on my own, I became a regular at my local library.
Today, I’m in a bookstore at least once a month. I take my daughter, and allow her time to peruse the shelves. We usually walk out with several books for her, and at least one or two for me. These purchases are on top of the ones we receive from Children’s Book of the Month Club. As for the library, I probably visit my local branch about four times a year.
As an aspiring YA novelist, I want to see my books in libraries, but I yearn to have them where individuals can buy them. I want to make a living writing books. Libraries will be a part of my marketing plan, but they can’t be the only piece of it. It’s just not realistic.
If you’re thinking that people of color don’t have the money for books, I would argue that’s probably not true. People of color spend money on entertainment. Books just aren’t a consideration for us.
Yes, the book industry is struggling over all. But not paying attention to this issue has HUGE implications. We know that high literacy rates have a direct impact on a successful experience in school, which leads to higher earnings as an adult. While policy makers worry about what more minorities will mean for the future of the U.S., children’s writers should start playing a role in this future.
What do you think? Should children’s writers start worrying about this issue?
Can we play a role? If so, how?