On May 14, CBC Diversity hosted a speed-dating-style event with six authors and illustrators known for creating inclusive literature. Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons and the Horn Book and presented in partnership with Children’s Books Boston, tables of eight to nine people spent ten minutes discussing diversity in children’s books with each of the featured children’s book creators (l to r): Anne Sibley O'Brien, Nicole Tadgell, Lesléa Newman, Rich Michelson, Susan Kuklin, and Francisco X. Stork .
Librarian and diversity advocate Sam Kane developed the following questions that formed the basis of each discussion:
Why is it important that children have access to inclusive literature (books featuring a range of abilities, ages, ethnicities, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic classes)?
What are the barriers that may prevent diversity books from getting into readers’ hands?
What are some solutions, strategies, or conversations to help shift the barriers to getting these books into the hands of children? (Think about your industry or field.)
Who has access to power in your industry or field? Which voices are denied access? Why?
How can we educate the gatekeepers in your industry or field? What do they need to know or believe to create bookshelves that reflect our population?
How can your industry or field promote or reward excellence as it pertains to inclusive literature?
What I found most inspiring about the evening was how it brought together participants from a wide variety of fields: we had teachers, principals, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, academics, reviewers, bloggers—all united in our desire to promote and develop books that more adequately reflect the demographics and realities of the world in which we live. By providing a space for people to connect across disciplines, the event allowed new kinds of synergies to arise.
Tonight at Simmons College, the Horn Book, Children’s Books Boston, and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature are cosponsoring “A Place at the Table: Speed Dating with Children’s Book Creators,” a Children’s Book Council Committee on Diversity evening with authors Susan Kuklin, Richard Michelson, Lesléa Newman, Francisco X. Stork, Nicole Tadgell, and Anne Sibley O'Brien.
We hope all of the attendees have a wonderful time tonight and leave with actionable takeaways from this interactive opportunity!
We Need Diverse Books . . . But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids? — A Fuse #8 Productionblogs.slj.com
For my birthday my husband picked me up a copy of the bestselling book NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. To be frank, I hadn’t heard of it. Though its been called “The Freakonomics of child rearing” and lauded by reviewer after reviewer it’s from the world of adult books. I traipse there but rarely. Still, I’m great with child (ten days away from the due date, in fact) and this promised to be a fascinating read. Covering everything from the detrimental effects that come with telling a kid that they’re smart to aggression in the home I settled down and devoured it with pleasure. In doing so, one chapter in particular caught my eye. Chapter Three: “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race: Does teaching children about race and skin color make them better of or worse?”
Culling several studies together, the book makes the point that while, “Nonwhite parents are about three times more likely to discuss race than white parents; 75% of the latter never, or almost never, talk about race.” Studies that required that parents do so with their young children saw white parent after white parent balk at the idea. There’s this notion out there that children are little innocents and that pointing out race will somehow taint their race blind worldview. Turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone who has ever had a kid will know that they like to categorize themselves and their friends into groups. Race is the easiest way to do so, so from a very early age the children will be prone to “in-group favoritism”.
–Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library’s Youth Materials Collections Specialist
Read the rest of this interesting article here and check out the picture book list Elizabeth put together at the end highlighting useful books for caregivers to use to discuss race, religion, and alternative lifestyles with young children.
Whenever I hear about some new study reaffirming that literature creates empathy I can’t help but roll my eyes.
I know way too many well-read jerks to believe that.
But maybe it isn’t so much about how well-read they are, but what they are reading? The stories we tell and the stories we hear are important. They shape us.
Institutional racism and prejudice exist in our world, and publishing is no safe haven from it. Even well-meaning people don’t realize their own internalized racism until they have been called out on it (and sometimes not even then). This post on Teen Librarian Toolbox speaks to the insidiousness of internalized racism, and that is just one example.
Diversity in Children’s Literature is a powerful topic, and if there is any doubt as to why it’s an important conversation to continue to have, just check out the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks on Twitter.
What I love about the We Need Diverse Books campaign is that it’s mobilizing people at all levels. It’s writers and readers forming a community, and voicing their beliefs and values. It’s creating a groundswell of interest. It’s motivating people to support the wonderful books and authors that are already out there by buying those books—which, let’s be honest, is the truest path to industry change.
I don’t believe in any form of censorship, and even the books that get it wrong can teach us something…as long as we’ve got plenty of other representations that get it right. That is something we need to work on. If we continue to focus on creating and supporting children’s literature that reflects the world’s beautiful, dynamic, colorful, plural, complexity, maybe the next generations will have fewer well-read jerks.
Change will not happen overnight. I’d like to believe we’re all in this for the long haul. Mistakes will be made. Let’s agree to call them out when we see them. And to listen to each other with an open mind and an open heart.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign kicks off today!diversityinya.tumblr.com
We asked author Ellen Oh, one of the authors and bloggers spearheading the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, to tell us about the genesis of the campaign. Here’s what she told us:
While diversity initiatives have been on my mind for a very long time, this particular hashtag campaign struck me hard on the day BookCon announced its all white male panel on kid lit. It started with a twitter conversation I was having with Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Hannah Ehrlich of Lee and Low Books, and Megan from Braun Books. We were talking about how hard it was being a POC author in a marketplace that clearly only favors white authors and the conversation took off from there.