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Opening our eyes to equity, diversity, and inclusion in children’s books

On Friday, October 25th, a sold-out crowd came to support Peacock Family Services and explore with Dr. Déana Scipio how children’s books can and should demonstrate equity, diversity, and inclusion. Whether this was their first or fifth Peacocktail Party, the community was clearly interested in this subject.

  Photo Oct 25, 8 21 05 PM For our 5th annual Peacocktail Party, we once again brought together a community of voices in support of developmental strategies for working with children of all ages. WEAVE Presents hosted the venue, which held the conversation and presentations wonderfully. Fig & Spice catered the sumptuous appetizers and evening treats to the delight of all in attendance. And Eagle Harbor Book Co brought a selection of books for the participants to peruse and purchase.

Peacock’s Executive Director, Kathy Haskin, welcomed the packed room filled with teachers, parents, school librarians and administers, local council candidates and committee members, as well as other curious colleagues in the field. “Tonight we are here to open our eyes, then talk about what we see.”

Photo Oct 25, 7 29 33 PMCurrently the Director of Campus Education Programs at IslandWood, Dr. Déana Scipio delivered an informative and insightful presentation. She brought her love of children’s picture books, her focus on broadening participation, and equity-oriented approaches in teaching and learning to the talk. Quoting children’s book author Grace Lin, Dr. Scipio explained how “Your children’s bookshelves should have mirrors and windows.” Books can be windows to the rest of the world, as well as mirrors allowing them to see themselves in the stories.

Our exploration into the subject continued with a view of diversity represented in current children’s books. For example, we looked at the percentage of books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds based on publishing statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education. The percentage of representation in 2018 was as follows:

  • 1% of books published had American Indian/First Nations characters,
  • 5% were Latinx,
  • 7% were Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific Islanders,
  • 10% were African American,
  • 27% of the characters were animals, and
  • 50% were White.

Dr. Scipio went on to question and explain what children may be seeing, or not seeing, in the stories we share with them. Do children see a character or image they can relate to? Are there stories that are missing? All children deserve to see themselves in their heroes.

Photo Oct 25, 7 56 47 PMThis was an eye-opening event for many people in the room. The presentation looked into the non-dominant communities. Are books reflecting the way all people live their lives, not to mention how each of us view history? As one participant reflected afterward, “I thought this was going to be about making the girls the hero more often. This was about gender, but it is also about representing race, LGBTQ, ableness and abilities, communities and cultures. It was so much more than I thought it would be!”

The Peacocktail Party discussions then continued into the evening, straight through dessert. We hope that these conversations will now endure throughout the community in the coming months, through emails, over coffee, in classrooms and meeting rooms. To that end, Dr. Scipio offers her Suggested Book List, which includes blogs and TED Talks from other thinkers.

If Photo Oct 25, 8 23 04 PMyou are curious to learn more about this evening, and the recent work of Peacock Family Services in the community, let’s get together. Your participation and continuing support is very much appreciated, because John Dewey was right when he said, “what the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children.”

Peacock Family Services is grateful for the support of individuals, business partners, foundations, government agencies, and special events, which we rely on to sustain our programs and services throughout the year.


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