My daughter was born in the last days of Barack Obama’s presidency. It was a different world back then and we had no clue how quickly everything was going to change. Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign and eventual victory, parents like me have been anxious about the values our children are being exposed to when they hear snippets about what is happening around them. What are children learning when they hear about Trump’s border wall or his policy of separating the children of illegal immigrants from their parents?
Children’s book authors are fighting back. The children’s book industry has always been in the business of helping kids to grow into kind, loving adults. But there’s a new wave of books that are very specifically reacting to the Trump presidency. All Are Welcome, for instance, which just went on sale, is all about inclusion. It follows a diverse group of children through their day in school. Those who wear hijabs, yarmulkes, and patkas (a head covering Sikh children wear) blend in with their friends who favor baseball caps or sparkly hair bows.
Not much happens in the book: The kids go to school, go to a science fair, and have a community gathering where they celebrate the Lunar New Year with their friends. But that’s precisely the point. Everyday life in America has become so contentious and ridden with division. This book paints a picture of how life could be different.
The book began as a poster that illustrator Suzanne Kaufman created featuring children of all backgrounds with open arms. She invited anybody to download it and put it up in their classroom or business, and people took her up on this offer. “If you would like to print or sell this image to support diversity in your school or community please email me so I can give you rights,” she wrote. “I would absolutely love this. Take care world. I believe in you.” The poster quickly became viral, inspiring this book, written by Alexandra Penfold that Kaufman illustrated.
I, for one, hope that it makes an impression on my daughter in these dark times.