Can We Talk Diversity?
The conversation about diversity in children’s books is lighting up the internet. Just search the first 4 words in this title and read for yourself the myriad of articles, blog posts, and social media engagement. The world is on fire putting pressure on publishers to produce more multicultural books. The tremendous push by advocates like We Need Diverse Books, and the women who are the driving force behind Multicultural Children’s Book Day, has placed diversity content at the top of everyone’s TBR list. And the move towards more inclusive children’s books doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
What Does Diversity Mean?
From Merriam-Webster: Diversity – noun di·ver·si·ty \də-ˈvər-sə-tē, dī-\ The quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.
Historically, there hasn’t been much on the shelf to choose from in children’s literature. In Jacob Hood’s post last summer, he aptly reminds us that while growing up there were few books available with characters of his culture, “…they were all about BEING black, which was awesome, but something that I already had experience in.” Agreeably, diversity in children’s books has to move beyond what it’s like to be black, [or Latino, or Asian, etc.] and move towards protagonists that acurately represent the multicultural world where we live.
But is That Enough?
In short, No. Children need to see themselves in the books they read. It requires writers and illustrators to develop works that challenge stereotypes. It means it’s time for under represented groups to LEAD the adventure or SOLVE the mystery. It means All Inclusive, such as protagonists who accurately represent variations in race, sexual orientation, economics, geography, religion, disability, and/or philosophy, allowing everyone a seat at the literary table. It means publishers rising to the call. Small publishing houses are uniquely poised to do just that; particularly in picture books, a genre who’s whiteness is overwhelming. It means multilingual translations (over 40 million Latinos live in the US -that’s a huge market!).
It means consumers raising their voices and choosing with their dollars. Relatable content for children is also important as a confidence builder. It’s empowering to imagine you are the astronaut sent into space to save the world! Accurate representation also allows children to identify and correct stereotypes and biases as they grow. They learn to understand and accept with compassion those who are different. Our youngest readers deserve this support as they learn to navigate a greater, diverse community. Let’s make sure we are there during their most formidable years with diverse, multicultural content.
Tell us your frustrations and what content you would like to see emerge in children’s literature. If you would like to support diversity in other genres, check out our friends at Rosarium Publishing and their Indiegogo campaign to put more diverse books in sic-fi, fantasy, and comics on our shelves!