Mommy, Mama, and Me and the importance of diversity in children’s books

When I was growing up there were no images of same sex individuals or families in my books, on the television, or in the wider media. And that made my life harder as a child. I had no obvious role models. Instead I looked for characters who had qualities that were similar to me, like Matilda who read everything she could find and felt like she didn’t quite fit. I had to wait until I was a young teenager to watch that all-important Brookside Beth Jordache kiss. I had to wait for 3 more years until I saw Ellen coming out in her sitcom. I was an adult before I found books by Jeanette Winterson, Alice Walker, Emma Donoghue and Leslea Newman.

Thankfully, things have changed significantly and now Leslea Newman has written Mommy, Mama, and Me and I can read it with my daughter and show her images of a family like hers.

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Mommy, Mama, and Me has shown me that there are books out there that echo my daughter’s family life. Not many, not enough, but some. She will be able to find images of herself and her family in her books and in the media, and I am confident that she will be able to find the person she wants to become. That is something to be celebrated, and supported.

Mommy, Mama, and Me is wonderful. It is a warm, affirming and happy book that follows a toddler through her/his day.

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It is beautifully, effortlessly inclusive. The toddler’s gender is left undefined so that girls and boys will be able to see themselves in the book. Each page shows the family enjoying a moment in their day together, from playing in the park to cooking and reading together. It is a gentle, positive celebration of family life.

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Mommy, Mama, and Me is one of the books in the early years ‘This is Me!’ Book pack created by Inclusive Minds and Letterbox Library. It is one of the books I recently ordered from Letterbox Library to read with my daughter, her friends, and the children who use the Rainbow Library. In this post I spoke about the importance of books that show children the wonderfully diverse world they live in. Young children see everything through eyes clear of prejudice and that is why it is so important that they have the opportunity to see books like Mommy, Mama, and Me and learn that all families are different but all families are equal.

Imagine if every library, every school, every nursery had a ‘This is Me!’ book pack. Imagine the children all reading these books and seeing every kind of child, every kind of family. Imagine them pointing to a picture and grinning as they find themselves in a book. And imagine them soaking up the pictures and the words and learning that everyone is different but everyone is equal. That is something so basic and yet so divisive and central to the progress of our entire society. This week it is being argued in the House of Lords whether same sex couples should be legally treated as equal. It is hard to listen to people debate whether I deserve to be treated equally. I expect the majority of voting members have not seen books with same sex families in, they certainly wouldn’t have seen them as children. So then, imagine what could be achieved if every child now grew up with access to books like Mommy, Mama, and Me and grew up knowing and understanding that everyone is different and everyone is equal. Think about the impact that could have.

That is why the ‘This is Me!’ Book packs are so important. It is why this blog exists, why I started the Rainbow Library and why I support Letterbox Library, Inclusive Minds and Child’sPlay. It is all striving towards the next generation being far more aware and understanding of diversity and equality than we are. Important, isn’t it! Perhaps at the end of this school year, instead of buying your child’s class teacher a big box of chocolates, you could buy them a small box and one of the books from the ‘This is Me!’ book packs to use with their next class. Or a bottle of wine for the teacher and a book for the school library? Perhaps you could support the Rainbow Library and make a donation towards a ‘This is Me!’ pack for the library? One book in a school library can make a difference. It all counts and it all adds up to more children growing up holding equality as a core belief. Let’s change the world, one book at a time.

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2 thoughts on “Mommy, Mama, and Me and the importance of diversity in children’s books

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree that children should have access to books that represent the diversity of family set-ups and of people in general. I want my children to understand that families are not just like ours and that everyone’s is ‘normal’. I want my children to be tolerant and open-minded and books are one of the ways I can encourage that ethos but for some children reading books might be one of the only opportunities they have to understand different ways of life so it’s even more important to have diverse books. Great post!

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