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Why representation matters


By Jen Gage (she/her), teacher, Vancouver Island

Teacher, May/June 2023


I grew up in a suburb of Toronto in the 1980s and 1990s as the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, and the only Black student in my class. I grew up in a time period of racial colourblindness and the United Colors of Benetton ads. After the murder of George Floyd, I began to reflect on my life as a Black female. It finally became clear why I felt invisible for 41 of my 43 years: when people kept telling me that they “didn’t see colour,” it meant they didn’t see me.


I have always been an avid reader, but I realized that my home library had very few books with or by people that looked like me. I decided to focus on reading books by BIPOC authors both for myself and for my two biracial daughters so that we could see ourselves represented in words, stories, and characters.


Reading books by BIPOC authors has allowed me to reconnect with my inner child. It has allowed me to see myself in many different roles that I never imagined possible. When I was a kid, I never thought that I could be an author as I was never exposed to Black authors in school.


I want my girls and all BIPOC students to dream big and to know that anything is possible. This is why representation matters.


Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

Resource list


Picture books

· Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

· I Am Enough by Grace Byers

· Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

· Eyes That Kiss in the Corner by Joanna Ho and Dung Ho

· The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi


Books about anti-racism

· The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph (12+)

(Also a great book for adults and comes with an educator’s guide online.)

· This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work

by Tiffany Jewell

· The Antiracist Kid: A Book About Identity, Justice and Activism by Tiffany Jewel


Class read-aloud novels by BIPOC authors

· Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

· Front Desk by Kelly Yang

· Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

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