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How much diversity is in your child's 'must read' list? South Florida archivist adds diversity and relevance

South Florida library director is adding his name and diversity to the shelves.
South Florida library director is adding his name and diversity to the shelves.
South Florida library director is adding his name and diversity to the shelves.
Posted at 1:34 PM, Sep 01, 2021

Most young kids like a good bedtime story, but how much diversity is in your child's "must read" list?

The latest figures from the Cooperative Children's Book Center reveal White children and animals are the main characters in U.S. Children's Literature; comprising 71% of the material that is seen and read.

Now one South Florida library director is adding his name and diversity to the shelves.

Riviera Beach Library director and archivist Rodney Freeman knows how to run a public library.

"You've got be task-oriented but also on top of 10 things at once," Freeman said. "What's coming in, the policy around it, circulation and getting material out to the public. And also at the same time you have to be the IT person."

And when you've spent 15 years in libraries including serving as assistant commissioner for the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, the biggest public library building at 756,000 square feet, you'll know what's greatly missing in the literature and bibliographic database.

"Diversity in Children's books," he said.

To be more specific, Freeman says there's a shortage of books featuring people of color in picture books (age 2 and up), early readers (age five to eight) and middle grade (age 8 to 12).

"It's critical," Freeman said. "This can change people's perspective and the way they view themselves and others in the world. And the earlier the better."

Freeman's solution? Make significant contributions online and the old-fashioned way.

Three years ago he launched Black Male Archives, a database and chronicle of positive news stories and developments highlighting Black men and youth around the globe.

"To show people that look there are (positive Black) stories out here," he said.

Then in June he released his first paperback and hardcover book entitled, "Daddy Let's Play," highlighting the special bond between Black fathers and daughters.

"The bond between a father and daughter transcends race — this father just happens to be Black and he and his child bond like so many others over playing video games," said Freeman. "The family dynamic and unit is a priority in most families. Nothing else matters. And I want people to utilize my book to show and promote that."

The plot involves Milah's dad running late from work one day. In response, she jumps into the video game to find and save him. But this tale of love, family and young heroism is also socially relevant. It tackles the pandemic and social justice protests.

"This is one more book for the librarian to find and pull for story time to read to the children's group," Freeman said.

For parent Anthony Waldon and his 12-year-old daughter Jamaica, the book is relevant and equally relatable.

"A couple months ago there were riots all over the world and people were protesting for George Floyd," Jamaica said. "I can relate to these images and the text as a kid. These are things my father and I talked about a lot both last year and this year."

The actually have two copies of the book saying representation shapes expectations for oneself and others.

"Yes, representation matters," she said.

Rodney Freeman is already working on his second book to promote positive Black family narratives. As for the Black Male Archives which includes videos and stories on Black men and youth making a difference around the globe you can learn more about it, here: