Jennyann Carthern is an artist with a mission. She recently launched a project, “Painting Black Faces,” in which she aims to paint 50 faces of African-American children in grades K-5. Her goal is both personal — to improve her artistic skills — and political — to celebrate the variety of skin colors in our world and help children “love the skin they’re in.”
Jennyann plans to compile the portraits into a children’s book. In her video about the project, she shares that as a young artist, impressionist painters were her heroes, but later on she wanted to see more people like herself in artwork.
“Right now in children’s picture books, there’s not a lot of diversity, but that is changing, and I wanted to be a part of that change,” she says.
So, how can you help? If you are the parent of an African-American or multiracial child, Jennyann is asking you to send her a high-quality photo of your child, along with some information about their personality. Those who participate will get an 8×10″ print of the painting she creates. Read more details and instructions at her website.
I’m a little bit late on this one! In March, I read 31 books. Of those, 12 count toward my We Need Diverse Books resolution. That’s about 39% — a drop from February, but on par with January.
I’m now at 35 diverse books this year. If I keep up the same pace I should hit my goal of 50 sometime in May.
I’ve noticed that it’s easier to find diverse picture books when I’m seeking nonfiction and biographies than when I’m tracking down fiction titles that have generated a lot of buzz. Part of that is because those character-driven stories often feature non-human characters (like a recent favorite of mine, Gaston), but it doesn’t seem that there’s a lot of diversity among the authors, either.
That’s all anecdotal, but the stats on children’s publishing do support these observations.
Here are the diverse books I read last month. They are picture books unless otherwise noted.
Row 1: “Bird” by Zetta Elliott, “One Million Men and Me” by Kelly Starling Lyons, “Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan” by Jeanette Winter
Row 2: “Listen, Slowly” by Thanhha Lai (middle grade), “John Lewis in the Lead” by James Haskins, “Draw What You See” by Kathleen Benson Haskins
Row 3: “Dizzy” by Jonah Winter, “Rad American Women A-Z” by Kate Schatz, “The Storyteller’s Candle” by Lucia M. Gonzalez
Row 4: “Port Chicago 50” by Steve Sheinkin (young adult), “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom” by Lynda Blackmon Lowery (young adult), “X: A Novel” by Ilyasah Shabazz (young adult)