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Black lives matter in children's books, too

September 14, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

An Illinois attorney couldn't find a book with a Black main character on the cover for her niece. So she and her husband went on a mission to provide free books with Black characters throughout a Chicago suburb starting the nonprofit "Young, Black & Lit."

Young, Black & Lit provides free books that feature Black main characters to children.

"When a child sees themselves reflected in the books that they read, when the books are a mirror to them, they feel valued," said Roseman.

Eleven percent of children's books had Black main characters last year, according to the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"It's not only about seeing yourself in the books that you read, but being able to take a peek into the world of other children, who look different than you and experience life different than you," Roseman said.

Amir Wilson's parents tried to find books with Black characters before the nonprofit came along, but "it was just always a challenge finding the ones for his age," said his father, Kareem Wilson.

Amir's third grade class received books from Young, Black & Lit last school year.

Before the pandemic, Roseman and her husband would go to schools, community events and businesses and set up tables filled with more than a hundred books with Black characters on the covers.

"We hear them say, 'Hey, that girl looks like me,' or 'Her hair is like mine,' and that's really an affirmation of the work that we're doing -- that they're excited to see such an array of books of children who look like them, who share those stories, share their family dynamics," said Roseman.

When they started out, Ramsey and Roseman faced an uphill battle finding books to buy with Black characters through publisher websites because, Ramsey said, there was no way to sort children's books this way.

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