Why Representation Matters

Books, toys, colouring books, clothes-sometimes it’s not the things we pay attention to, it’s the subtle things- but it wasn’t until I had my daughter that I began to notice just how little diversity existed in the industry for children. Raising a mixed race child, it became very important to me that the toys, books or items I bought for her, represent real life and also reflect the diversity of her family and the wider world. This week on the blog, I share why I believe it’s important to have proper representation within your home.

Some of my daughter’s Barbie Fashionista dolls

I know what you might be thinking, just let her play with the toys she likes and don’t over analyse it all so much! And you’re probably very right, but what we fail to give credence to is the impact subtlety has on our lives and our subconscious. What actual harm will it do if they played with toys that reflected the real world? We don’t all look the same, we don’t all speak the same language and some of us have things that make us special. When I mean diversity, I don’t mean to only show it in the medium when we’re discussing diversity. Just last week, Neveah brought home a reading book entitled Seasick, there was nothing too significant about the story, a family goes on a boat ride and some of them become seasick. After finishing the book, I jokingly said to her that I wouldn’t do very well on this boat, as I would also be seasick. She looked at me and stated, “But mom, brown people don’t get seasick.” I replied, “Of course they do- trust me I get very seasick when I’m on a boat.” She looked at me confused, “But how come in my book, there aren’t any brown people?” I let her know that despite the fact that there weren’t any brown people, brown people can still become seasick, the illustrator simply missed the brown people out of the story. Now what got me thinking was, we claim we support diversity, but yet we don’t include diverse people in small things like stories. Why couldn’t there be a diverse group of people on the boat? And what message are we essentially sending when we omit them? Why can’t a protagonist be someone of colour? Why can’t the story be based on a character from an ethnic group? Haven’t we been inundated with stories or dolls from the same aesthetic for far too long? Are we really this unadventurous? On another note, what if our children had a disability or live with something that made them feel othered, wouldn’t you want them to have toys which looked like or reflected them? Books which feature children with different levels of ability, toys with children who have alopecia or vitiligo, children who have epilepsy or chronic illnesses. These children/people exist in our world, we’re aware of this; yet I don’t believe we represent the diversity enough- if we really do believe in sharing the spotlight, then we really need to actually SHARE it.

More Barbie Fashionista dolls (this isn’t even 1/2)

Below is a list of some of the books I’ve found over the years to be inclusive, some discussing and celebrating colour and others merely having POC or of non-White ethnicity at the centre of the story. This is by no means the extent of our book collection only the ones that stood out to me. You can buy all of these books on amazon ,order from your local bookstore or scholastics and the Barbie Fashionista dolls can also be bought off amazon, but they will most certainly be available at your local toy store.

  • Braids– Robert Munsch
  • I Am Enough– Grace Byers
  • Princess Truly– Kelly Greenawalt
  • One Love– Cedella Marley
  • Together for Kwanzaa– Juwanda G. Ford
  • Happy In Our Skin– Fran Manushkin
  • Beautiful– Stacy McAnulty
  • Little People, Big Dreams Series– Isabel Sanchez Vegara
  • Ruby’s Worry– Tim Percival
  • Mega Magic Hair Swap– Rochelle Humes

Children are the purest of souls, they see differences, but they don’t discriminate in regards to it; they most certainly are more welcoming and understanding than we can be as adults. But children are also sponges, they mimic what they see, they repeat what they hear and they follow our lead. Having books and toys which reflect the diversity that is real life can only add to creating more empathetic, well-rounded children and the way I see it, that can never be a bad thing.

What are your thoughts on representation, particularly for children? Are we doing enough?

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influnenster-Rae-Anne

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