The Original Article:
Nancy Larrick's "The All-White World of Children's Books" (1965)
In her article, Larrick shines a light on the disparity in publishing numbers that shows overwhelmingly white characters in children's books, leaving children of color searching for themselves and coming up short. The innocent question posed by a five year old girl cited in her article sums up the frustrations: "Why are they always white children?"
Larrick provides publishing numbers in comparison with population statistics to show the number of students who aren't being personally reached by their own stories. Of the books that are published featuring children of color, very few reflect the contemporary child of the 1960s (with the vast majority being stories of slavery or African folk tales). Such findings prompt her to ask, "How well do recent children's books depict the Negro?"
If the dated pictures and language were updated in Larrick's article, would contemporary audiences be able to tell the difference between the struggles for equality and diversity in publishing in the 60s and those today? Part of my inspiration for this site was to compare The New York Times articles by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers on the same topic and see to what extent the article is just as relevant today.
Small scale, local projects with my own college students who searched public library shelves for books featuring people of color yielded rather similar results, showing African Americans and Native Americans especially as being historically presented or represented through folk tales more often than contemporary tales.
Read her article and determine for yourself just how stuck in the past children's book publishing might be. You can read Larrick's article in its entirety via the following links:
The images above and below were published in the original Saturday Review article accompanying Larrick's piece.
September 11, 1965