It’s difficult to find any representations of disabled characters in any form of media. In GLAAD’s annual look at minority representation on scripted network shows, there were only eight characters with disabilities in the 2013-2014 season. That means of all the characters on network shows in primetime, a whopping 1% had a disability.
That figure measures only a very small segment of the media, but it is indicative of a larger problem: the woeful lack of representation of people with disabilities across the board. I would argue that this dearth of disabled characters makes it even more important that the ones we do get are respectful and thoughtful portrayals.
I would also argue that those characters that aren’t—those that perpetuate harmful stereotypes, clichés, and tropes—are even more dangerous than they otherwise would be given that lack.
I was born with a degenerative neuromuscular disease, and have used a power wheelchair since I was two. I can distinctly remember the first time I saw a character that used a wheelchair. I was ten. I just want to emphasize that I didn’t see a single character like me for the first decade of my life. It didn’t even occur to me to ask for a wheelchair-using character.
But then there one was. Here was a movie where someone like me would not only be a character, but the main character. I was ecstatic. Until I actually watched it, and then I couldn’t figure out why I felt so utterly disappointed, almost betrayed. I didn’t understand that feeling then, but I understand it now.
'His Dark Materials' Are the Books That Changed My Lifepolicymic.com
The American Library Association lists His Dark Materials, as a series, as the eighth most banned or challenged book from 2000-2009. It is most often challenged for its “political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence.” These are not absurd claims to make against the series. Pullman wrote an incredibly complex and nuanced story under the guise of a young adult series. But it is a young adult author’s responsibility to introduce themes that the reader will soon have to address and attempt to grasp in his or her own lives.
– Alexandra Svokos
We have come to know that there’s so many different kinds of “diversity” out there, some visible and some invisible. Religious diversity can find itself in both columns. When writing for kids and young adults, like His Dark Materials did for many, it’s important to give the reader room–room to think deeply about a tough topic, room to ask questions, and room to come to one’s own opinions.
What books have you read that changed your perspective or made you think about a subject differently? Check out some of our committee’s answers here.
Cynthia Kadohata Wins the 2013 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature | Children's Book Councilcbcbooks.org
Cynthia Kadohata has won the 2013 National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category. Kadohata, who is also a Newberry Medal winner, was recognized with this prestigious accolade for her middle-grade novel, ‘The Thing About Luck.’
Julia Kuo created the illustrations. Atheneum Books for Young Readers published the book in June 2013. The story stars a Japanese-American girl named Summer who sets out to make her own luck to save her family.
Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write it.
My most recent book is The Granddaughter Necklace. It’s a picture book based on family stories I collected from childhood on up. I am African American but discovered when I was an adult that my maternal line goes back to a woman in Ireland. This woman is featured in The Granddaughter Necklace along with six other generations in my maternal line. It’s a book I feel as if I’ve been writing my entire life.
Do you think of yourself as a diverse author?
For the major part of my career I’ve created books with protagonists of color. Primarily, because much of my work has its source in real life experiences I had growing up in the Black community. Early on, I also began to think very strongly about my readers and how important it was for those who were children of color to see protagonists of color in some of their literature. I also felt and continue to feel that it is equally valuable for the rest of our readers. So, yes, I would say that as an author I could be categorized as “diverse” (an African American becoming more and more diverse everyday now that I’ve discovered my Irish heritage and had my DNA traced back to tribes in Cameroon!). As a writer, diversity in literature is one of my missions and has characterized my career.
A 'Reluctant Reader' Turns YA Author For 'Tough Teens'npr.org
A few years ago I did an author visit at an overcrowded junior high school in a rougher part of San Antonio. I write young adult novels that feature working-class, “multicultural” characters, so I’m frequently invited to speak at urban schools like this.
As is often the case, the principal and I talked as the kids filed into the auditorium. The student body was mostly Hispanic, he told me, and over 90 percent qualified for free and reduced lunch. It was an underprivileged school, a traditionally low-achieving school, but they were working hard to raise performance.
The principal then pointed out a particular student, seated near the back. “That one’s a real instigator,” he told me. “But don’t worry, we’ll remove him if he starts acting up. It wouldn’t be the first time Joshua blew an opportunity like this.”
–Matt de la Peña, NPR Code Switch
Also, check out Matt’s Industry Q&A and find out more about his thoughts on writing inclusively.
RIF and McDonald's Partner Upparenting.blogs.nytimes.com
“I spoke to Carol Rasco, the president and chief executive of RlF, and asked — with childhood obesity, and literacy and education differences included among the gaps between the haves and have-nots in this country, why would an organization dedicated to helping children read more partner with a company that has, arguably, a fiduciary duty to persuade them to eat more?
‘We need to reach families where they are,’ she told me. 'We feel we need to look at as many angles as possible to reach children. We need to find new ways to influence parents.’ But why McDonald’s?
McDonald’s is 'a comfortable atmosphere’ for many of the families RIF hopes to reach, Ms. Rasco said. 'Parents are there to talk and laugh and have fun with their children.’”