GUEST POST: Young, Black & Lit --- The Importance of Seeing Ourselves in the Books We Read
Every child deserves to see themselves reflected in the stories they read.
About a year and a half ago, I walked into a popular bookstore to continue a tradition of buying my 7-year-old niece some children’s books for her birthday. I asked the sales associate to help me find age-appropriate books featuring Black girls. After about 30 minutes in the store searching shelves full of books featuring animals and children who looked nothing like my niece, I left empty-handed, frustrated, and, as a life-long book lover, saddened that there were likely few bookstores my niece could walk into and feel seen. It was out of this experience that Young, Black & Lit was born.
Who are we? Young, Black & Lit is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to increasing access to children’s books that feature Black characters. We partner with schools and organizations in the Evanston/Chicagoland area to give children’s books to local youth at no cost to the youth or their families.
Why do we do what we do? Study after study has shown that increased access to books in the home has a significant impact on children’s reading achievement. Studies have also shown the critical importance of representation in children’s literature. Many education scholars agree that when books serve as mirrors, allowing children to see themselves, their families, and their communities reflected, children feel valued. When those same books serve as windows, allowing children to see the similarities and differences they have with other cultures, children feel connected. (See “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors” https://scenicregional.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Mirrors-Windows-and-Sliding-Glass-Doors.pdf).
In a world that too often undervalues the beauty and brilliance of Black children, Young, Black & Lit aims to change the narrative. We are an organization that is rooted in love: love of children, love of reading, and love of Black culture. Young, Black & Lit makes it easier for children to access quality books featuring Black characters by removing the cost and doing the research to find books that affirm the varied experiences of Black children; building at-home libraries, self-esteem, and life-long readers, one book at a time.
To learn more about our work and/or to support our efforts, please visit youngblackandlit.org.