Imagine: it’s a Saturday morning and you’ve woken up early to watch your favorite cartoons. Suddenly you realize that you don’t look like any of the other kids on television. When you go back to school on Monday, none of the pictures in the books like you either. You start to wonder if there’s something wrong with you, or if you don’t deserve the same things the kids on TV or in books are getting. You start to feel like your experience doesn’t matter and that no one cares about you. It might sound like something you would never experience but unfortunately, this is the truth for many minorities or otherwise disenfranchised kids.
Your story matters
When children (and even adults) don’t see themselves represented in literature, they can become reluctant to read. Not being represented well, or at all, in literature can also lead to negative self-esteem and negative self-worth, leading them to believe that they are not valued in society. These negative feelings and a lack of interest in reading can then impact their entire education, and even prevent young readers from expanding their minds. Those who don’t read, or who aren’t at reading level, then go on to become lower-income adults. Being represented in literature isn’t just about being seen, it also influences education efficacy.
On the flip side, when kids see themselves reflected in the literature they consume, it shows them that there is a place for them in the world. Seeing characters who feel or look like themselves also helps children to understand their own experience more effectively by providing positive reinforcement that there’s nothing wrong with them and that they are welcome in this world.
Diverse stories open hearts and minds
Storytelling is a core part of what it means to be human. But books aren't the only method of doing so, stories can be shared through television shows, movies, advertising campaigns, and even day-to-day conversations with others.
No matter how they are told, all stories give society ways to describe parts of oneself that can be hard to explain otherwise. When stories are available from multiple perspectives, individuals can better explore their own identity by determining how they want to talk about themselves. This goes for everyone, not just minorities.
Books also provide a window into cultures that otherwise might be difficult to experience. Looking at other cultures helps children and adults understand people who are different from themselves and allows for a more enriched connection when relating to others.
Stories written from other perspectives and cultures can help others understand what it’s like to live that way. They’re also a great way to spotlight some of the severe disparities between races, genders, and sexual identities. When those in “mainstream society” understand what life is like for minorities, they can then brainstorm ways to help support people whose privilege is different than their own. Diverse literature is crucial for that.
Tell your story
March 14th is Write Your Story Day, a celebration encouraging young writers to tell their own life stories through blogging, social media, or writing in a journal. It’s a celebration of the stories that challenge and change us, the ones that help us understand ourselves and each other in new and important ways.
No matter how you decide to participate, reading and writing diverse stories helps enrich all readers. Having those stories available supports children from all backgrounds in feeling like they are seen and their experiences matter. It also helps people explore their identity and learn more about themselves.
This Sunday, join us on Twitter and Instagram at @bookclubdotcom and share your own story— whether it’s one you’ve written already or one you’re writing for the first time—so that your voice can be heard and others can see themselves in your writing. If you’re not a writer, tell us what stories you identify with the most—how did writers help you see yourself better?