The CBC Diversity initiative was founded in 2012, as part of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people. We believe that all children deserve to see their world reflected in the books they read. We recognize that diversity takes on many forms, including differences in race, religion, gender, geography, sexual orientation, class, and ability.
In addition to championing diverse authors and illustrators, CBC Diversity strives to open up the publishing industry to a wider range of employees. We’ve taken an active role in recruiting diverse candidates, participating in school career fairs and partnering with We Need Diverse Books on its summer internship program.
Why is diversity in
science fiction and fantasy so critical?
I grew up on science fiction and fantasy – Madeline
L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time to The Hobbit to Star Wars, Star Trek,and
Carl Sagan’s amazing show, Cosmos. Science
fiction taught me to imagine big, to envision things beyond my reckoning. It
taught me to dream. But of course, science fiction and fantasy back then didn’t
let me see anyone who looked like me in a central role. As a brown skinned,
immigrant daughter, I loved science fiction and fantasy. But science fiction
and fantasy didn’t really love me back.
I think over the years, we’ve seen a vast improvement in
terms of representation in many genres of children’s fiction. My own kids got
to read a much more diverse array of books than I ever did. But not across all
genres, unfortunately. My son, in particular, was a huge fantasy reader – if
there wasn’t a talking bird, or flying horse, or a wizard in the tale, he
wasn’t having it! Yet, the same gaps in representation I found as a young lover
of science fiction and fantasy are still around 30+ years later. That’s a
problem, because if all books are in the business of building our imaginations,
then sci-fi and fantasy are in the business of building radical imagination. And
if there’s ever been a time during which we need a collective radical
imagination, it’s now. That’s part of the reason I wrote The Serpent’s Secret.
JaNay Brown-Wood, author of Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story, shares her book list “Family and Food: A Multicultural list for Preschool through 3rd Grade” Check out the preview below and the full list & 3 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Storyby JaNay Brown-Wood
This is a cozy counting picture book about the relatives visiting Grandma and eating until they are all stuffed. It’s a sweet, rhyming counting book introduces young readers to numbers one through ﬁfteen. [picture book, for ages 2 and up]
2. Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
This story is written in rhyme, showing the preparation of a popular Korean dish and the excitement of a hungry, young child. All the family members come together at the end to eat. The lines are rhythmic and the illustrations are fun. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
3. Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
This book is an oldie but goodie. It follows an African American family as they get ready for a dinner with loved ones. It actually counts to ten twice, and is also written in rhyme. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
first diversity question today is how do you self identify?
am a black American woman.
did your background influence your early reading and writing habits, if at all?
I grew up in a family
where education was of utmost importance. Reading, writing, and all things
academic were as normal and mandatory as breathing. I am thankful for how much
my parents valued education. They read to us each night and exposed us to different
texts ranging from poetry and children’s literature to newspapers and
encyclopedias. I still remember when my dad ordered a collection of
Encyclopedia Britannica that filled an entire bookshelf in our living room. I
do admit that I initially didn’t like reading for fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed
writing my own stories, poetry, and songs. Reading grew on me, and, to this day,
both reading and writing are integral parts of my life.
up, did you see and/or envision yourself in the stories you read?
I didn’t see myself in
many stories that I read, but two do come to mind: Vera B. Williams’s Cherries and Cherry Pits and John
Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.
I don’t remember loving those books, but they do stick out in my mind—possibly
because they had black girls in them. As a teenager I remember reading Mildred
D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,
and while the protagonist was black, I didn’t feel like I connected to her that
much. I think I insulated myself from not being represented in books because I wrote
my own stories where I was the main
character. I wrote a bunch of stories starring Detective JaNay Brown where I’d
go on adventures and solve mysteries. I also remember writing stories with
black girls that were similar to me, even if they didn’t have my name. So
although I didn’t really feel myself connecting to published books, I
definitely connected to my own work since I was the one solving all the
Megan Dowd Lambert, author of Real Sisters Pretend, shares her book list “Eight Picture Books with Diverse Family Constellations.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Fred Stays with Me by Nancy Coffelt, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
A little girl whose parents are divorced splits her time between her mom’s house and her dad’s. Her dog, the eponymous Fred, also moves between homes, which gives her a sense of stability and consistency in her co-parenting, joint-custody family arrangement. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
2. Stella Brings the Family by Miriam Schiffer Baker, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Stella has two dads and isn’t quite sure what to do for her class’s Mother’s Day celebration. Ultimately, she decides to bring both of her parents, as well as other family members who nurture her, and they are all affirmed and welcomed by everyone at school. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
3. Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
Inspired by two of the author’s daughters, this is a story about adoptive sisters, Mia (who is multiracial) and Tayja (who is Back), who affirm their bonds with one another after a stranger questions whether they are “real sisters” since they don’t look alike. They punctuate their pretend play with conversation about their adoption stories, and it all culminates in a warm family hug with their two moms. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Aram Kim, author of No Kimchi for Me!, shares her picture book list of “Diverse Books with Food (and Recipe).” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, llustrated by Ken Min
Aneel enjoys his grandparents’ visit, especially his grandpa’s fairytale-like old stories from India. This book intertwines contemporary Indian-American life, traditional Indian lifestyle, great storytelling, and intergenerational bond over stories and food. It is a great mixture of everything! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
2. Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant
Cora is the youngest and always stuck doing a “kid’s job” in the kitchen while her big brothers and sisters do a cool job. When Cora is in the kitchen with her mom alone, she finally gets to do a grownup job and plays a big part in cooking a delicious Filipino noodle dish pancit! Readers can feel the excitement of little Cora and follow her delightful journey. *Recipe included. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. Jalapeño Bagels by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Robert Casilla
Pablo helps out in the family bakery and picks an item to bring to his International Day at school. The bakery carries his mom’s various Mexican sweet bread and his dad’s Jewish bagels and challah bread. All kinds look delicious to Pablo, but he finally picks jalapeño bagels that seem to represent himself. The story carries multicultural fare effectively and deliciously. *Recipes included. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
My mission as an author is to mine the past for family
stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles. Add to that unsung heroes.
When my friend and frequent collaborator Eric Velasquez pitched the idea of a
Schomburg biography to me, I was intrigued. Like Schomburg, Eric has roots in
Africa and Puerto Rico. I detected Eric’s passion for the project and I could
not refuse. I believe this is the book that Eric was born to create. Even
though the book had a ten year gestation, I am honored that Eric asked me to
collaborate. This is our fifth book together.
When did you first learn about Schomburg?
I knew of the Schomburg Center before I knew about the
man behind it. I did picture research there in the early 1980s. That was long
before there were digital archives online. Back then, I had to wear white
gloves to handle vintage photographs. I recall being in awe of the Center’s
vast holdings. What I did not know is that Schomburg the man was a bibliophile
and a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance, a period I first wrote about in Sugar
Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood. That picture book isillustrated
by Gregory Christie.
1) Why do you think there’s such a dearth of diverse children’s books?
In a couple of words: white supremacy. The
fact that there are more books published about animals than about black kids
says a lot, not only about our
society, but about “Western” sensibilities and colonization on the whole. About
the perception of “race” and the role of literacy in the development of
societal hierarchies. The English staked their claim on land in various places
around the world and forced the people in those places to learn the English
language, but literature and the arts were reserved for members of the highest
social classes. Who were all white.
The fact that we’re almost two decades into
the 21st Century and just now
beginning to see books written in English that reflect the realities of the
English-speaking world says a lot about who, historically, has been expected—or
even allowed—to achieve English
literacy. When all the business-related rhetoric is stripped away (“Those types
of books statistically don’t sell well.” “The numbers don’t suggest that this
would be a good investment.”), the implications are that 1) certain groups of
people don’t read and 2) the people who do
read wouldn’t want to read about x-type of people. The marginalized wind up
doubting the validity of their very existence, and the privileged continue to
see themselves as the protagonists of the only stories that matter. I’m sure I
don’t have to explain why this is detrimental to everyone.