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Reading diverse and inclusive books teaches children empathy, experts say

Mar 11, 2022, 2:01 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2022, 9:29 pm

OREM, Utah — Getting your little ones to read daily is just as important as what they read. Reading diverse and inclusive books offers a powerful opportunity to teach your child about empathy and the world around them.

Fenise Dort recognizes the power of a good book. which is why see brings her three young grandchildren to the Orem Public Library every week.

“We come every Thursday! That’s the day I look forward to coming with my grandkids,” Dort said.

In February, Dort was excited to learn that the library’s story time program would focus on books about influential African Americans. She feels having her grandchildren see people who look like them, front and center, is important for their confidence and development.

“They are little but I’m telling you, they are not going to forget. They will not forget what they learned today and share it with others,” Dort said.

Utah Library Association President, Rita Baguio Christiansen, said representation is something that helps to form a child’s identity.

“Books are mirrors, and windows and sliding doors. We want all children to be able to see themselves in books and experience other experiences, other cultures, and backgrounds,” she said.

Christiansen believes the reason diverse books are becoming increasingly available at libraries nationwide is because the racial makeup of our country is changing.

“There has been an absolute increase by publishers to bring these books forward for families and children so they can see themselves in books,” she said.

According to the latest U.S. census, more than half of the 19.6 million children under five in America are individuals of color.

Christensen feels it is especially important to expose your children to these different perspectives when they are young and to read to them daily. It is something she has done with her own kids.

“I read to them every night before they went to bed for at least for 10 minutes from birth to age 12,” she said.

Only 26% of Utah children under the age of 3 are read to daily, which ranks Utah at 49 out of 51 for reading to young children according to the 2017-2019 National Survey of Children’s Health.

It is something libraries statewide hope to change by offering things like story time with books meant to educate and inspire the next generation.

“There is black, there is white, there is yellow, there are all types of people,” Fenise Dort said. “I think we are looking for unity and love, kindness, and peace. And that’s the beauty of the world!”

For more ideas on how to help your child learn through reading, check out 5B45kids.com.

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Reading diverse and inclusive books teaches children empathy, experts say