The fourth annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD), this January 27, is the brainchild of two wonderfully diverse women. Mia Wenjen and Valarie Budayr want to help children “see themselves reflected in the pages of the books they read.” The holiday’s timely message, “Read Your World,” will resonate with JLife readers who, as Jews, seek to embrace everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender or special needs.
As a child, Wenjen never once found an Asian-American character in a library book. “Then, decades later as a mom, I found a dozen or so Asian-American children’s book authors and was elated.” Wenjen then read a study showing the number of diversity books published annually hadn’t changed in 14 years. Her response was a Facebook public statement announcing she’d focus her blog on multicultural kids’ literature. “Valarie saw my post and called me, saying we should just start our own holiday.” So they did. In fact, last year alone MCBD generated 96 million social media shares over three days (before, during and after the holiday), and gave away over 600 diversity books to parents and teachers. This year, with Scholastic as a sponsor, they’ll likely triple that.
Both Wenjen and Budayr relate to the word “multicultural” in very personal ways.
Wenjen is half-Japanese and half-Chinese. Her mother, born in San Francisco’s Japantown, was forced to relocate during WWII. Her father emigrated from China before the Communist takeover. With a Korean-born husband and kids that are part-Korean, Chinese and Japanese Americans, Wenjen believes there’s probably no one out there with quite this make-up. Co-founder Budayr, emigrated from Sweden and speaks five languages fluently including Arabic. Her family is Muslim and lives in Tennessee.
During MCBD’s January 27 Twitter party, book bundles will be given away every six minutes from 6-7 p.m. (PST). Authors and publishers participate so questions are welcome as are requests for books you’d like to see published. Use hashtag #ReadYourWorld to find the MCBD Twitter party. For great diversity book reviews visit their Linkys posted on their website. MulticulturalChildrensBookDay.com is also an excellent resource for parents, with booklists in categories ranging from country, genre, religion, age, to ethnicity and LGBTQ.
As consumers, according to Wenjen, we have to make conscious choices to support the books that we want to see more of by requesting them at the library or buying them, if we’re able to. And we have to advocate for these books ceaselessly if we want to see a change. _
Ronna Mandel is a contributing writer to Kiddish magazine.