An English professor stated that reading only children’s books about white males “risks creating arrogant, self-centered white boys,” in a Monday interview.
Philip Nel, a children’s literature scholar and Kansas State University English professor, discussed with The Washington Post his work with Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat,” as well as his hopes for a more equitable representation of characters of various races in children’s books.
Nel told WaPo that he used the character of the Cat in the Hat in his book “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?” “because he’s the ideal metaphor for the often unseen ways in which racism persists in children’s culture.” The character was influenced by both a black person Dr. Seuss knew, as well as blackface minstrelsy. Nel notes.
Seuss is “a reminder that people who say ‘I don’t have as racist bone in my body’ do not understand how racism actually works,” says the professor. (RELATED: Melania Trump Isn’t Happy An Elementary School Rejected Her ‘Racist’ Dr. Seuss Books)
Nel discussed children’s literature not only from an output perspective, but also from the production side of the equation.
“In the United States, half of school-age children are nonwhite,” the professor said. “Yet only 22 percent of children’s books published in 2016 featured nonwhite children, and only 13 percent of children’s books published in 2016 were by nonwhite creators.”
“A steady literary diet of [books about straight white men] risks creating arrogant, self-centered white boys, and it risks telling all others that their stories are just not as worth telling, that they are less important,” he added. “The white boys reading [books portraying characters of different identities] can expand their understanding of humanity and cultivate empathy for lives different than their own.”
Nel will be conducting a January panel “Calling Dumbledore’s Army: Activist Children’s Literature.”
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Nel for further comment, but received none in time for press.
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