Helping black children find themselves in the pages of books

November 01, 1991|By Mary Corey

When African-American children's books proved impossible to find, Barbara Carney came up with her own solution: She bought stories of white children and colored their skin brown.

"I wanted to make sure my daughter grew up feeling good about herself and her people," Ms. Carney says of the frustration she experienced more than a decade ago.

While books about black youngsters are easier to find today, they're not nearly as plentiful as tales of white youths. Of the roughly 5,000 new children's books published in 1990, only 51 were illustrated or written by African-American authors, according to the Cooperative Children's Book Center in Madison, Wis.

That's why Ms. Carney has formed African-American Literature Service, a Columbia-based company selling African-American children's stories at school, church and community book fairs. Similar companies, like the Columbia-based African-American Books Plus, have started book clubs for youngsters.

Says Ms. Carney, "When black children don't see themselves in books, it's like looking in a mirror, not seeing yourself and wondering why you're not there."

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