Minorities have lives outside of social issues, sports and politics

The Paperboy

All too often, when a minority is the main character of a picture book, it’s a book about social issues: racism, injustice, slavery, segregation, immigration, English language learners or sports and sometimes politics.  What you don’t see often is the day to day life of minorities.

Don’t get me wrong.  These issues are extremely important.  But, minorities have lives outside of these narrow areas.  While basal readers are catching up in this area, high quality picture books aren’t.  The Paperboy is a pleasant exception to this rule.  This is not an action story, or a fantasy story.  It just the story of a boy with a paper route.  Everyday life lived by a minority.

But, it’s poetically written so that it holds my students spell bound year after year.

A couple of notes:

I understand that large mainstream publishing companies are capitalist ventures that have done their research.  They know there isn’t a massive market for this kind of book because the bulk of the picture book buying populous is still white.   That said, demographics are shifting in schools and the lived experiences of minorities need to be affirmed too.  This kind of book will help address the gap.

Second, some reviewers have objected to this story because it is the lived experience of a suburban black boy; and that doesn’t reflect the majority of the black experience any more than the Cosby Show.  I respect this objection.  We do need more books that encompass the urban black experience too.  I will include those in future posts.

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