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In the publishing world, diversity depends not only on who is portrayed but also on how

A new study on racial representation in US schoolbooks by The Education Trust argues that numbers alone are not enough: to change the unequal representation of people of color is to change not only how many are portrayed, but also how they are portrayed.

It is an exclusively qualitative approach. Racial diversity in books can and should increase over time, but if characters of color are portrayed in simplistic, stereotypical, or negative ways, these books do no good to America's undergraduates, more than half now are not white.

Representation gaps

The study, published on Thursday, September 14 and written by Drs. Tanji Reed Marshall and William Rodick report figures that support this disservice: between 300 School books In the U.S. (chosen at random, uniformly across all levels, from publishers commonly used in English language arts curricula, such as Scholastic and Penguin Random House), nearly half of people of color are portrayed negatively.

This representation takes many forms: Individually, people of color are often portrayed as ?one-dimensional? or without agency, depending on the study; groups or cultures of color are often portrayed with associated stereotypes or as inferior to others; and historical or social themes are "almost always sanitized, told from a unique perspective."

"There has always been representation in the curricula, and that representation is predominantly white," said the Dr Marshall . Those who want to fill the gaps in representation "must also push for the inclusion of books with characters of color that are fully realized and positively represented."

This imbalance extends to the books' creators themselves: 232 of the 300 books had at least one white author or illustrator (77.3%), 6.8 times more than the next highest category: Black creators, who participated in 34 books (11.3). %).

Determining the complex representation

The study divides the criteria it uses to determine complex, partial or limited representation between three categories: historically marginalized individuals, groups or cultures, and historical or social themes.

At the level of individuals, questions are suggested about their multidimensionality, agency and influence (positive or negative); those of groups or cultures include stereotypes, positive values and values in relation to other groups; those on historical and social themes include sanitization or oversimplification, inclusion of historically marginalized perspectives, and relating the theme to students' experiences.

280 of the 300 books had central characters, essential to the story or information. Of those, 124 had people of color (44%). However, only 53% of these people were portrayed with complexity, while another 44% had limited representation.

Dr. Rodick said: ?At first, we were pleasantly surprised that half of the characters of color were represented with complexity. And then we were surprised that we were surprised, because that is a very low bar. We want much more than half. We were also surprised by how rare identity overlaps were, including different family structures, genders, disabilities, relationships to the prison system; Those stories were still very hidden on the page?

118 of the books had groups of color (39%), and less than a third of them (31%) did so with complexity - avoiding stereotypes, immersing people in the culture, and portraying groups of color in a way that is positive and equally valuable to others groups?, according to the study. More than half did not (54%).

73 of the 300 books in the EdTrust study feature at least one white person. (Source: EdTrust via Ethnic Media Services)

On the socio-historical front, 137 books addressed historical or social themes (46%), and few did so with complexity (16%) "avoiding sanitation, including a marginalized perspective and connecting the topic with student realities." The vast majority did not (80%).

"Same as him increase in bans of books that can expose students to diverse representation, imbalances in this representation are not new,” Rodick said.

PEN America reports 1,477 individual book bans in the US during the first half of the 2022-2023 school year, up 28% from the previous six months. The 40% of banned books between July 2021 and June 2022 they had prominent protagonists or supporting characters of color; 21% had titles indicating racial issues.

Examples of banned books include ?I Am Rosa Parks?, ?I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.?, ?The Bluest Eye? and ?The Hill We Climb?.

Although greater representation is an uphill battle on the legislative front, some states like Illinois (which, in June 2023, became the first to pass a book ban) and California , which passed a similar bill in September, are making historic progress.

“As we work for greater freedom across the country,” Rodick said, “we will use our report as a foundation to work closely with publishers, teachers and curriculum advocates to create guides for reviewing what children read, understanding the limits of How are people, groups, and themes portrayed in these books, and decide how to present these books for a more complete understanding of what is being portrayed?

Balancing limited representation

“An increase in black characters in children's books is fantastic,” Rodick said, “but we want to go beyond counting not just whether they are portrayed, but how often they are portrayed in a negative way.”

?We don't want anyone to eliminate or censor any book based on its representation, or consider it good or bad; many of those that are limited are of indispensable value?, he continued. ?We want to recognize the value of these limited books by adding more perspectives to engage students with them more deeply. If a book presents a topic in a very problematic way, it is not a question of whether the reader should approach it, but rather how best to approach it.

One of the books examined, for example, is the autobiography "Ruby Bridges Goes to School." In it, Bridges frames racial segregation as a personal issue, whereby certain whites think they should not befriend blacks.

According to the study, in the illustrated book "Nasreen's Secret School", set in Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban, a more complex vision of an adjacent topic is presented. In the story, the parents of the girl of the same name disappear and the regime prohibits her from attending school and leaving home without a male companion or burqa. In defiance, Nasreen's grandmother enrolls her in a secret school, where the girl finds solace in an outlawed world of art and literature with the support of her teacher.

Just because Ruby Bridges' personal perspective conveys a more limited representation of educational segregation than Nasreen's doesn't mean it isn't an invaluable way to learn about it, Rodick emphasized. However, it does mean that readers would learn more about it if the book were taught alongside others that present segregation in its social, economic, or legal dimensions, beyond this personal limitation.

In short, representation does not stop in front of a mirror.

“We engage students not only when they can see themselves come to life on the page, but also when they can see others come to life on the page, when they can step into each other's worlds through their experiences,” Rodick said. . “However, a complete understanding of the people who have these experiences cannot be achieved through a single story, or from anyone.”

This publication was supported in whole or part by funding provided by the State of California, ayou administeredred by the CaliFornia State Library.

You may be interested in: Hate crimes in California increase more than 20 percent in 2022

Peninsula 360 Press
Peninsula 360 Presshttps://peninsula360press.com
Study of cross-cultural digital communication

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