I took on the #inclusivebookshelfchallenge on instagram by @inclusivestorytime and this is the result. Out of the 102 children story books currently in our book bin, 46 feature animal characters and 30 feature white characters only. The 19 books featured above feature non-white characters or speak about or picture diversity in one form or another, to a greater or lesser extent. A good start, I think, for the book bin of a two-year old.
Whilst rasism against black people was not part of our immediate reality growing up, my society at home has been experiencing many different forms of intolerance and discrimination, against the Rroma minority, antisemitism or xenophobia, LGBTIQ+, for example, as well as very deeply rooted stereotypes and perspectives on women and their role in society. I have lived outside my country for 15 years, on and off; mostly in a more visibly diverse and open society and work environment than I would have had at home. I also spent two years in South Africa, where my baby was born. Granted, over there, he was naturally surrounded throughout the day by black people: his nanny, our helpers, the guards, the nursery teachers, kids in his “ducklings class” at school, passers by on the street in our neighbourhood; and they were all engaging and loving. He won’t remember this, but we’ve got stories and photos to show him. Now we’re back for the foreseeable future to a place where just going to the park around the corner and to the playground we bump into people and kids of all races, different religions and speaking different languages and I find it is quite a good mix for little gosling to grow up in.
With all this in mind, I am trying to raise my child to hopefully be as tolerant and open-minded as possible, to speak out and take action as much as he can. I will do my best to foster a link to Africa, even if just because he will always have South Africa as his place of birth written down on his birth certificate and no other link whatsoever with the country/continent. For now, I have been trying to expose him to books that portray characters different than he is/we are or which challenge the norm and stereotypes and send positive messages. I believe and hope that he grows up to be not only a citizen of Europe, but a citizen of the world, that much like where we live now, different bits of the world will cross him every day. So I want to prepare him to understand and embrace that diversity, not to be scared or shocked, to be a good and kind person.