The book follows Kemi, a black girl with big, curly, kinky afro hair, as she gets her hair done on wash day. As aware as I was of how important the topic of the book was for children in accepting and appreciating the beauty in their hair, I didn’t realise just how much it was needed for more than that. Love Thy Fro was needed because it represented children that aren’t always represented in mainstream children’s books.
This realisation made me realise there was work to be done, and I decided I wanted to play a part in doing the work to make that change.
Diverse children’s books are needed now more than ever, especially given the society we live in. To be diverse is to be inclusive, and why wouldn’t we want all children to be included in literature?
Many people often think that when we talk about diversity, we’re only talking about race. As important as race is, diversity relates to so much more than just that; household structures, disability and health, culture, religion, language. There is diversity within all of these things and more, and children's books should be representative of the different children from all of these worlds.
There are a number of benefits to children that come from diversity and inclusion in books. Children feel like a part of society and don’t feel excluded. Children are able to learn about, and appreciate, other cultures and people from different backgrounds. As children see images they can relate to, they begin to feel more valued which helps to raise their self-esteem and confidence. And they become more aspirational as they aspire to be like the images they see.
When you look at the benefits and what diversity really means, it seems so simple, so the fact that much of mainstream publishing isn’t embracing it is quite baffling. People often mistakenly think books that embrace diversity are only for children from diverse backgrounds but that shouldn’t be the case. For decades, children have managed to make a connection to characters from primarily white backgrounds in popular books, so there’s no reason why connections can’t be made to children from non-white backgrounds. These books that embrace diversity are for everyone, even more so than those that don’t.
Diversity educates. It inspires. It gives a greater understanding. It’s inclusive. It's our role, as authors, publishers, parents, teachers and librarians to make sure that diverse literature is brought to the forefront of publishing.