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People Like Me in Places Like Mine: Authentic Representation in Rural Picturebooks

James Erekson, Suzette Youngs, Christine Kyser, Lu Benke


Librarians serve children in specific locations. As they seek to fulfill the Association for Library Service to Children’s (ALSC) promise to help “children make cross-cultural connections and develop skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society,” they must consider a book’s authenticity and specific geography.

Young readers in rural places experience different challenges from those in urban and suburban settings as do rural librarians experience different collection development demands than do those in urban and suburban settings, especially when rural stereotypes dominate in children’s books. Because rural identities are tied to each child’s place, daily rural life may feel different on the coast than on the prairie, or in mountains, woods, wetlands, and deserts. Only 9 percent of the rural US workforce is in agriculture, with 91 percent having livelihoods in service, tourism, government, education, manufacturing, mining, health care, and energy. Yet much children’s literature continues to present settings where family farming dominates the rural economy, neglecting the diversity of rural work.

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