Since this past spring, a debate has been going on in publishing and reading circles about the lack of diverse characters in children's literary titles.
An April report quantified: Of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 featured black characters... That’s the lowest number of black protagonists since 1994, when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison began tracking that data. The numbers were similarly abysmal for children’s books by or about American Indians, Asians, and Latinos — proving that publishing, like the film and TV industry, has a long way to go when it comes to fostering and promoting diversity.
The revelation prompted a movement, We Need Diverse Books and even a hashtag, #WeNeedDiverseBooks (when something gets a hashtag, you know it's legit). There's even a round up of tweets on the subject from Little Pickle Press.
At the same time, a mom wrote on BlogHer:
Now, I'm not sure if any American, no matter what their ethnicity or sexual orientation, has ever been able to find a television character to whom they relate completely (for one thing, most of us live 24/7, not one hour a week - summers off). But, when it comes to my kids, ages 14, 10 and 7, the offspring of a Soviet-born Jewish mother and an African-American father, that task becomes even more difficult. Because, while TV has made massive strides towards showcasing people of color, they have yet to do equally well for people of many colors; specifically those who identify as such. (My oldest son is always asking, "Why do they call Obama the first Black president, instead of the first biracial one?") And while I would never look to television exclusively for my kids' role models, I would like it if there were some they could, if not identify with, at least catch a glimpse of once in a while.
The issue of diversity in books, movies and television is particularly important when it comes to bright kids, since they tend to be hyper-sensitive to the world around them, seeing injustices others might simply shrug off and wondering why things have to be the way they are. (It is even more important to bright kids of color, who might be desperately looking for role models... and only finding "Family Matters" Steve Urkel. Who isn't exactly portrayed positively.)
To that end, consider LEGOS. The people in the LEGO universe are... yellow. (Granted, the presence of brown LEGO men and women would suggest that the default yellow LEGOS are, in fact, Caucasian. But they don't have to be. The racism charges that have dogged the company in the past only apply if you believe LEGO has white and non-white figures.)
LEGOS exist in a world of imagination, where kids can build anything they want, and where they can be anyone they want. And, conversely, the LEGO men (and women) can be anyone the kids want, too. Maybe not exactly the diversity the #WeNeedDiverseBooks people had in mind, but it's something, especially for parents who need product for their children now, not sometime down the road.
Want to see for yourself?
The NY Frugal Family Examiner is doing a LEGO Book giveaway. Click here to enter http://www.examiner.com/article/giveaway-win-free-lego-movie-books!