Family Connection: Kwame Alexander on Children’s Books and the Color of Characters

If you followed along with my book reviews over the summer (or have ever talked to me for more than five minutes in person), then you know that I’m a huge Kwame Alexander fan. Okay, maybe huge is an understatement. He makes me swoon. I write his name in cursive all over my school notebooks. I want to stand outside of his house with a boombox.

The reason I’m so taken with Mr. Alexander is that his beautiful, unique books perfectly summarize the tumultuous nature of the tween and teen years. They’re awkward and painful and joyous and breathtaking. The text dances and creates and questions. The characters grow and change and hurt and survive.  They are living, breathing things – and they leave the reader full.

Because I guess he didn’t think I was in love with him enough yet, Kwame Alexander climbed up onto my personal soapbox this week. He nudged me over and took a stand for his article for the New York Times called Children’s Books and the Color of Characters, a piece all about the importance of diverse children’s literature and the difference that it can make it our world. Be still, my heart. Here’s a favorite snippet:

The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child. If we don’t give children books that are literary mirrors as well as windows to the whole world of possibility, if these books don’t give them the opportunity to see outside themselves, then how can we expect them to grow into adults who connect in meaningful ways to a global community, to people who might look or live differently than they. You cannot.

I became a librarian to make a difference in the world, no matter how small. I believe that every book shared with a child shapes the person they will become. Intolerance is based in fear – fear is often founded in a lack of understanding. Diverse books widen a child’s horizon and normalize differences and challenges that they may face in the future; sharing them with your child gives them the tools that they need to successfully navigate the big, wide world that awaits them. I hope that you will take the time to read this deeply meaningful article from Kwame Alexander. If you want to join me in writing him love letters, let me know.

On Children’s Books and the Color of Characters

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