Note from BW of Brazil: It’s no secret that black children in Brazil have very few choices when it comes to having role models to whom they can look to for representation. Brazil can be very cruel to black children. Not only do these children endure regular racist attacks from classmates and teachers that don’t know how to deal with these situations, then there’s the issue of being a black child when the school textbooks only present black people as slaves in the history of Brazil. Then when you see black children on television, the media will try to convince them that they aren’t dealing with racist situations when they in fact are, show black boys as helplessly in love with white girls who have no interest in them and exploit the fragile emotions of black children to address racist situations. Sensing a media that has made it quite apparent it has no desire to address this lack of representation or changing stereotypical images, Afro-Brazilians are turning to other outlets such as theater, YouTube and literature to address this need for positive images and protagonism. This is equally true in the world of children’s literature where this need for representation is arguably more important. A number of black authors are filling this need as the demand continues to grow. In the piece below, parents as well as teachers speak on the reasons that representation matters for our little ones.
Parents seek representation in literature for their children
Brazilian literature has more diverse titles, but it still has a ways to go
Encourage the habit of reading and, at the same time, make crianças negras (black children) find representation in children’s literature. This has been the measure adopted by many parents as a way of contributing to the construction of their children’s identity.
This month, when the Day of Black Consciousness was celebrated (20), several tips were given by educators around books that approach and discuss topics such as respect for differences, the fight against racism and intolerance. Nurse Gislene dos Santos Silva, 35, saw a tip on the internet and bet on buying one of these books to give her eight-year-old daughter. She says that she took her to a bookstore, asked the attendant to show her all the titles in which there were black children as protagonists, letting the girl choose the book she would like to take home.
“It was a very nice experience to see my daughter identify with the book she chose, which was Lindara and tells the story of a black girl with braids in her hair. The picture of the character is printed on the cover of the book and her hair is just like how my daughter wears it day to day, with braids. No doubt that was the determining factor for the choice and this motivated me a lot to look for other books that also have the power to awaken this feeling in her”, says the nurse, adding that she will take advantage of the end of year celebrations to present to her nephews the same way.
“I’ll take them to the bookstore and let them choose from whomever they identify,” she said.
Housewife Aline Oliveira, 27, has a six-year-old daughter in the literacy phase. According to her, who grew up reading stories of princesas brancas ou loiras (white or blonde princesses), with olhos azuis e cabelos lisos (blue eyes and straight hair), knowing that today bookstores offer a vast amount of books having black children as main characters is a great advance. She says that her goal is to take her to a bookstore so the girl can see the covers available and then choose the one that she most identifies with.
“I’m unemployed and, at the moment, unable to buy the books for her. I downloaded some titles through the internet, but I’m sure it will be more enjoyable for her, who is learning to read, to go to a bookstore and choose what she wants to read, as well as the joy of seeing boys and girls appearing on the cover with art as beautiful as other books aimed at children. We still have a long way to go, but I’m glad to hear that things are changing. In my childhood I didn’t have those same references that my daughter has today,” said Aline.
According to Professor Rafaela da Silva Cruz, who teaches in Educação Infantil (Early Childhood Education), encouraging children’s reading, regardless of race, in early childhood and in the literacy period, besides contributing to the construction of identity, also helps to work on self-esteem of little ones. “But in the case of black children, who already have so little representation in toys, such as dolls, for example, in cartoons and movies of superheroes and princesses, encouraging the reading of books that have characters with whom they identify becomes even more important,” says the teacher.
As she points out, it is of fundamental importance that educators indicate in the classroom, and also for parents, the existence of books with black characters. This is because, according to her, although the number of titles is still lower than the others, many parents don’t know of the existence of these copies. As an recommendation, she states that she often mentions some titles such as O Menino Marron, by Ziraldo, Lindara, by Sônia Rosa, Amoras, by Emicida, Meu Crespo é de Rainha, by activist Bell Hooks, Meninas Negras (Black Girls), by Madú Costa, Menina Bonita (pretty girl), by Ana Maria Machado, O Cabelo de Lelê (Lelê’s hair), by Valéria Belém, and others that, according to her, can be found on the internet.
“These books, for the most part, have the characteristic cover of a black child. And that makes all the difference in the lives of the little ones because right away they identify and establish the consciousness that they are as important as any other child. The dissemination and creation of black characters in books, drawings, comics, movies and toys is fundamental, so that our diversity is clear not only for black children, but also for white children as well,” Rafaela pointed out.
Source: Diário do Vale