In 2016, there were 3200 children’s books published in the U.S., according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Madison Wisconsin.
Yet only 8 percent of those were about black people. Not surprisingly, Asian-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are vastly under-represented in the publishing world, too.
Enter Denene Millner.
She is a New York Times best-selling author. She’s also a columnist, cultural commentator, editor, award-winning journalist, parenting expert and talk-show host.
And now, she aims to change the under-representation of minorities in children’s literature through a recent partnership with Agate Publishing.
Denene Millner Books is an imprint that produces children’s books that center black characters and their human experiences.
The initiative is a giant step toward diversifying the children’s book market, which is lacking in multiculturalism.
Millner is working with other black illustrators and writers to ensure not only that black children see more of themselves on the pages, but that children of other ethnicities see themselves, too.
“Denene Millner Books is important because of its mission to celebrate the humanity of black children and families,” Millner said.
Just one week until the release of "Early Sunday Morning," a gorgeous children's picture book about a little girl's first church choir solo and the family and friends who surround her with the love and helpful advice she needs to lift her mighty voice. The story is beautiful, the illustrations, by the extraordinary Vanessa Newton, are divine and, together, we celebrate the joy, community and love that families the world over instill in their beautiful babies. This one will make your heart sing! In stores April 11, but you can order today. Let's make a beautiful story featuring a loving Black family be the standard–and a hit! http://s.ripl.com/4esvoa #DeneneMillnerBooks #EarlySundayMorning #WeNeedDiverseBooks #BlackBooks
Millner further emphasizes how myopic the publishing industry is in regards to black children’s books:
“All too often, the only kind of black stories we see in children’s books are centered on slavery, the Civil Rights Movement or some famous black person who represents black excellence. I’m all for recognizing history and celebrating our heroes, but black children also deserve to see their lives reflected in the stories we read to them. Black children lose their baby teeth, get scared on the first day of Kindergarten, use their imaginations to play with dragons and dinosaurs and envision themselves flying to space and being mermaids, and rarely do children’s books featuring black subjects recognize this.”
This is certainly a consideration for parents.
As we shape and raise future leaders, we should be eager to gift our little ones with a broader and more diverse view of the society in which they interact.
Through literacy, children can develop cultural competency and learn about individuality and differences.
Here’s a synopsis of some these new books.
Early Sunday Morning, written by Millner, and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, is the first book off the DMB printing press. In the book, a young girl overcomes her fear of singing in front of her church congregation.
Dragon in the Closet, written by Dorothea Taylor, and designed by Charly Palmer, is a mystifying tale about a young boy blamed for a dragon’s mischief.
Crown, penned by Derrick Barnes, and vividly brought to life by Gordon C. James, expresses the pride a young boy feels after receiving a fresh hair cut.
This trio of books is filled with diversity and the very things children love: imagination, imagery and great storytelling. The books are available at major retailers, including Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, and each retails for $13 or less.
Get you some.