Last fall, a class of 6th graders in New York City began a study of book covers. Apparently, it began as an examination of race and book covers, but expanded to consider various other aspects of diversity.
Here is a taste of the students' thoughts regarding whitewashing and the obscuring of characters of color on covers:
“Why do the people who make covers sometimes make the people of color not have the spotlight? Like LOCOMOTION, why couldn’t we see the African-American face?”
“The cover of LOCOMOTION caught my attention… It just stuck with me. It just seemed so wrong.”
“I think the cover could be hurtful because there is a light shining on the boy’s face, who is from Vermont, and the girl, who is from Mexico, has her back turned.” (On RETURN TO SENDER)
“Society is almost afraid of putting a dark-skinned or Asian character on the cover of a book. I feel like these are minor forms of segregation.”
“Do illustrators think that if a person of color is fully shown, it won’t sell as many copies?”
“The skin of dark-skinned characters is not always allowed to look dark on book covers.”
Head over to this blog to read more about what the kids learned from their study about book covers and race. It's intriguing to learn what children think about this important issue. Now that they're educated, they can pass on what they've learned to family and friends. Perhaps they will envision creative ways to stop whitewashing and the obscuring of people of color on book covers, and maybe (as one child mentions) they will grow up to take part in bringing about positive change in their future careers. Education and acknowledgement are the first steps to positive change!