‘Bookmarks’ Series from Netflix Spotlights the Black Experience
On September 1, 2020, Netflix announced the launch of its new Bookmarks series, a collection of 12 five-minute episodes featuring Black celebrities and artists reading aloud children’s books by Black authors that highlight the Black experience. Performers in the debut lineup include Academy Award-winning actor and author Lupita Nyong’o reading her book Sulwe, illustrated by Vashti Harrison; actor and comedian Tiffany Haddish reading I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis; author Grace Byers reading her title I Am Enough, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo; and Newbery Medalist Jacqueline Woodson reading her picture book, The Day You Begin, illustrated by Rafael López.
Hosted by young author and activist Marley Dias, who founded the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign to highlight works starring Black female protagonists, the Bookmarks series is a fun way to share Black experiences with children.
Dr. Kevin Clark, children’s media consultant and founding director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University, is a creative producer and primary driver for the series. Dr. Clark has previously done some children’s media consulting work for Netflix for issues of diversity and inclusion. The Netflix brand called him to assist in developing this new project.
“The team at Netflix reached out to me, describing their overall concept,” he told Publisher’s Weekly, “and I used that concept to create a framework to identify and select the books, and then things just went from there.”
Netflix came up with the idea with the goal of “energizing children and their families around books, bringing books to life, and using books to generate conversations about identity and social justice,” says Dr. Clark.
He selected books that were centered on a social-justice curriculum, which consists of four components: identity, respect, justice and action, building on one another.
“When we were evaluating books, we would try to find books that fell into one of those four categories,” he said, “because we want young people to develop a sense of who they are and to see themselves.”
According to Dr. Clark, “If young people have a strong sense of who they are, then respect enters in, meaning that they respect other people and they respect different perspectives and points of view. And when you have identity and respect, children are better able to identify instances of injustice, thereby wanting to see justice.” Finally, “action,” the fourth element of the framework, Dr. Clark says, “gives young people suggestions or examples of things that they can do to take action when they see injustice.”
Another key component is making sure that the Bookmarks series had continually good stories, Clark said. “This show is for all kids, and not just domestically, but globally. We understand that good storytelling is good storytelling. We wanted to create and present stories that would connect with people around the world. And we think we’ve done that.”
Netflix created stories that are truthful topics, like learning to love yourself, to complex issues about how to fight against racism and how to protest.
“I think we’ve done a good job of covering a variety of content, if you will, and it’s appropriate for a variety of audiences. It gives you a good span so you can sit down with your youngest children and with your eight-year-old and still have something to talk about,” Dr. Clark shared. They had a large number of books and were able to condense them into 12 episodes.
Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices is a wonderful way to share Black stories with your family. Learning how to love yourself and love others at a young age has the ability to transform the mindsets of many Americans today. Be sure to watch the series with your children today!