Inclusive literature is necessary to help children feel represented in the books they are reading. It can also be a window for readers to experience characters, cultures, and circumstances that are different from their own.
While the words house and home are often used interchangeably, there are important distinctions and differences. Whereas one, house, can be used to describe a place where one simply exists, the other, home, brings with it a sense of community and belonging. The same can be said of children’s literature. Inclusive children’s literature builds homes in which readers of different backgrounds can immerse themselves and feel seen and understood.
“When kids can see themselves in books that they read about, and they read about characters who look like them and have families like them and live like them, they feel that they’re a valuable member of a community and a society,” says Lesa Cline-Ransome, author of middle-grade novels “Finding Langston” and “Leaving Lymon.” Published by Holiday House — the first and oldest children’s-only publisher in America — the books focus on the experiences of two young Black boys and their searches for acceptance and belonging.
Cline-Ransome, who started writing books 25 years ago, knows what it’s like to not see herself reflected in literature. As a Black girl growing up in a white community in Massachusetts, she didn’t have relatable books or characters. Her favorite book was “The Diary of Anne Frank” because she related to what it felt like to be an outsider.
Now, Cline-Ransome’s books have found a home with Holiday House, whose publishing program has long included an array of diverse and inclusive titles.
“Reading books about people outside of your group can help you gain an understanding of underrepresented groups and dispel stereotypes and understand that your experience isn’t more valuable, or more important than anyone else’s experience,” says Cline-Ransome.