If you’re a child who loves to read, loves to pick up a book and dive right into the world contained in-between the front and back covers, you tend to be enthralled by a story that may—in some way or form—relate you. But what if you’re a child of a diverse background that isn’t represented in the stories you read? What if you’re a child who wants to be like the hero you inspire to read but feel you cannot because they aren’t like you?
Two 8th grade girls from Arizona are just representatives of this understanding; Christina Cuevas and Emma Peterson are two avid readers who enjoy a partaking in reading a good book. Involving themselves in an activity which excites their mind in witnessing a tale written upon pages fills the pair with joy.
“I like imagining the stuff that happens in the books, it’s fun to go to a new world,” said Cuevas.
However both cannot help but notice a hindrance when it comes to their beloved hobby.
“There aren’t any specific Latino characters in any of the books I read,” said Peterson, acknowledging a flaw in what she enjoys doing.
In the past several years, published books have made quite the impact on American youth. From Harry Potter to Twilight to The Vampire Diaries these best-selling books have been converted into live-action adaptations which in-hand has also made young Americans take up an old pastime and venture into reading the stories in-which the adaptation stemmed from. Yet, most of the highly popular works of fiction fails to represent the diverse community that America—the world (in parts) at large.
Kathy Short, a Professor at University of Arizona, notes that less than 3% of books published in 2011 featured a Latino main character. In the world of literature today only 10% of what’s being publish represents the four cultural groups of Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians.
Director of UA’s “Worlds of Words” Short guides the organization’s mission which is bring diversity into books read by children and young adults alike.
“It’s not that kids only want to read books about themselves, they want to read books about many other topics, cultures, and points of view,” said Short, “but if you never see yourself in a book, it really does start to send strong messages.”
Messages that may hinder a readers interpretation of the possibilities they can do in the world in-which they live in.
While there is a lack of representation, Short acknowledges that there are book consisting of diverse characters. The way to find them: search hard on the book shelves. To help in this search, Short has taken an effort in compiling a list of books that consists of incorporating culturally diverse characters and settings.
“But I also think if parents, school libraries and teachers really seek out those books and use them with children, purchase them and make them a part of a kid’s lives, the market will produce more those books,” Short notes, making an intriguing solution to fixing the lack of representation in works of literature.
While the country—and the world—is becoming more culturally diverse, hopefully so will the worlds living in books.