It’s a challenge finding Canadian children’s books that reflect diversity, inclusion, and disability in the lead characters and story lines. Thanks to Canadian readers demanding change—and librarians leading the charge—the children’s book publishing industry is slowly starting to take note. Yes, Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a-Changin.”
As Toronto Star writer, Deborah Dundas Brooks wrote, “In a year of Black Lives Matter and social activism front and centre in the media, the publishing community has been forcefully nudged to address the issue.” (See: Toronto Star Article & Survey on Diversity in Canadian Children’s Books )
Is your children’s library promoting diversity?
Toni Duval, a Peel District School Board teacher/librarian saw the Star’s survey results and took a deep dive into the books on her school’s library shelves. She sorted the books by publishing year, and went back several years, listing the books by author and title. “The further away I went from the present, the whiter my collection was. It was so blatant.”
Other librarians were inspired by her research and it prompted them to try and increase the diversity of content on their shelves as well. “When students see books that reflect their diversity, they will see that their voices have value too,” says Dundas Brooks.
Where can I find books on diversity and inclusion now?
To help you find books for children and youth about diversity—and to engage in discussions with your children about current affairs—check out these links:
Canadian Children’s Book Centre
I would highly recommend spending the whopping $5.95 to purchase the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids and Teens 2021. A few new titles on diversity include:
- Racism and Stereotypes (Indigenous Life in Canada: Past, Present and Future)
- Working Toward Gaining Equality for Women (Achieving Social Change)
- What Kids Did: Stories of Kindness and Intervention in the time of COVID-19
- The Autism Lens: Everything teachers need to connect with students, build confidence and promote classroom learning,
Ottawa Public Library (OPL)
A kind OPL children’s librarian introduced me to the “LIST” search on the OPL website to find books on particular topics. You don’t need a library card to search the site at https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com. Under “KEYWORD”, pull down to “LIST” and type in your search topic. Voila, a number of book lists will appear. The lists are compiled by library users across Canada and the US. This mean some books may not be available in the OPL but can be purchased elsewhere. Search “Autism books for kids”, for instance, and this recommendation list will appear: https://ottawa.bibliocommons.com/list/share/993450927_sanyes/1883803519_autism_books_for_kids
Orca Books (based in Victoria, B.C)
The Orca Think Series lists a number of books on diversity, disability, activism, and inclusion. Some new titles include:
- Finding Home, The Journey of Immigrants and Refugees
- The Disability Experience, Working Toward Belonging
- How to become an Accidental Activist
- Shelter: Homelessness In Our Community
CanLit for Little Canadians lists books by Canadian children’s book authors. I found this to be a comprehensive resource for books about Canadian-relevant issues like Truth and Reconciliation, Indigenous culture, and multi-culturalism.
Festival Of Literacy Diversity (FOLD Kids)
Checkout the FOLD 2021 Booklist
Art Gallery of Ontario’s, Collection of Diverse Canadian Children’s Books
Diverse Book Finder
Reminder: October is Dyslexia Awareness month.
Check out this ODES post and link to understand more about the challenges facing people who have dyslexia.