Hey parents, when was the last time you or your child read a kid's book where the main character looked like you? This might seem like a silly or unimportant question, but it can be a difficult one to answer for parents and children of color.
The world of children's books (and media in general, really) has long been dominated by whiteness: white characters, white faces on book covers; white authors, editors, and publishers. On average, only about 10% of the children's books published in a given year are written by and/or about people of color.
Why is this such a big deal? Well, books do a lot of things for kids (and parents). They can be like mirrors; showing us things about ourselves and helping us understand and validate our life experiences. They can also be like windows to the lives of others; we can hear and learn about people we might never know or see, which builds empathy and connection. Books are one of the primary ways we teach our children everything from manners to morals, so what goes into them matters.
And that's why the We Need Diverse Books campaign started up in 2014. Check them out on Facebook or Tumblr, or on their website. The goal of the We Need Diverse Books campaign is to advocate for change in the practices of children's publishing to increase the number of books that feature children of color, as well as advocating for the hiring of more authors, editors, and publishers of color so every child can see themselves in the books they read.
Now, libraries can't take all the credit for the push towards more diverse kid lit, but we do use our buying power to show that there's a demand for diverse books and we make sure to highlight the diverse books we have in our collections.
With that in mind, here's a wonderful list that our children's librarians have compiled of the best diverse books at KCLS. The great thing about this list is that these books don't focus exclusively on their diversity; rather, they treat it as a given and tell regular stories about diverse people. Take a look!
If you're interested in reading more about the diversity gap in children's publishing, check out these links:
Lee & Low Books, a children's book publisher that focuses on diversity, releases a study every year on the state of diversity in publishing.
Charlemae Rollins was possibly the first children's librarian to push for more diversity in children's books.
This is a famous paper on diversity in children's publishing written in 1990: "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors" by Rudine Sims Bishop
And, of course, there's a hashtag. Check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks on Twitter.
Wanna talk diversity in kid lit? Leave a comment below!