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.
I remember when I was a kid that adults would often respond
to my beliefs on social, human, and political positions with some version of: Well, you won’t feel that way when you grow
up. I was raised in a conservative town with conservative ideals (starting,
I suppose, with the belief that kids’ opinions were not of equal value!). But I
remember thinking, even at the time: Oh,
I bet you’re wrong about that. I bet I’ll feel exactly the same way when I grow
Well, I’m grown up! Or I am at least by the measures
specified by the adults of my childhood, and I in fact do feel the same way on
most of those issues. With the confidence of age, I might even maintain some of
my positions more vigorously.
I am currently the writer of a book series for seven- to
twelve-year-olds. The series has some other stuff I still like from childhood:
imagination, mystery, a little bit of adventure. But in these books I also
focus a lot on compassion and understanding. In particular, I extend these
themes to my villains. I do this because my human, social, and political views
are, at their core, founded in the belief that humans are the same. People of all gender, color and
income levels—we’re not as far apart as we sometimes appear. In fact, our
distance is sometimes our shared vulnerabilities and insecurities, just
expressed in different ways.
Every book has a conception story. Mine
begins with the shameless binge-watching of an MTV reality series called “Generation
Cryo.” Over the course of six episodes, the show follows 17-year-old Breeanna, daughter
of a lesbian couple who was conceived via sperm donation, on a search for her
genetic half-siblings. Thanks to the Donor Sibling Registry, Bree connects with
Jonah and Hilit and Jayme and Jesse and Paige and Molly and Will, and
ultimately brings everyone together to track down their biological father.
Prior to watching the show, I had only
a cursory understanding of sperm donation and its effects on families. I
understood the science, but I knew nothing of the emotional fallout—of how
angry and hurt and confused some donor-conceived children could grow up to be,
or how fraught the relationships with the non-biological parents who were
raising them could become. I was fascinated by the idea of a new “insta-family.”
Unlike children conceived via sperm donation prior to the 1990’s, today’s
generation of donor-conceived kids have access to Internet search engines,
registry websites, social media, and video chat technology, all of which allow
them to connect with their genetic half-siblings, and even with their sperm
donor, in a mind-blowingly short amount of time.
As a 21st century mom, psychology
major, and YA author, how could I not write a book about this?
The most important
thing I can do as an author of children’s books is offer stories that open
communication between child and parent. In my Kissing Hand series, it is Mrs.
Raccoon who helps Chester through his many issues and difficulties beginning
with separation anxiety. Other books in the series deal with new siblings,
moving, bullying, dying, fear of speaking in front of others and wanting to
return home during a sleep over. These are issues all children face, but with
the help of books and characters like Chester Raccoon, and the caretakers and
teachers who bring them to life, children can face issues armed with
understanding and a sense of self.
When writing, I
often think about the brilliant diversity of color and sound, shape and size,
and speed and agility that is present in the animal kingdom. Most people
embrace these amazing differences with open minds and without prejudice. It is
because we all too often close our minds to the beautiful diversity in people
that I stay within the animal kingdom when writing my children’s books.
“It’s simple, Susan. Just pick one. Which would you rather be?”
It was my first day of first grade at a
new school, and we were playing a getting-to-know-you game that doubled as a
class-demographics survey. We had divided ourselves into groups based on
favorite ice cream flavor, age, favorite animal, and zip code, laughing over
Then came a question on race. I thought
seriously for a moment as the other kids sorted themselves into groups. But I
quickly found my answer and carefully chose my spot—halfway between the group
of students who identified as white and the group who identified as Asian. I
was proud of my creativity, and excited to share my answer.
So I was shocked when my teacher
disciplined me in front of the class, first asking why I hadn’t chosen a group,
and then, when I explained that I had chosen a group—half one, and half
the other—chastising me for choosing two groups when her survey allowed her to
tick only one box.
Which is when she demanded that I choose
between the two.
Last summer, I traveled to Tanzania to take
photographs. In February, I followed my
camera to Toronto. This was my first visit to Canada. It was a wonderful
experience dotted with several visits to Tim Hortons.
When I traveled to Tanzania, I took photographs for stories
that had not been written. There was no way the authors I work with could know
what stories I would find. This time, I had stories that were already written,
so I had specific photos that I needed to take. One of the authors I work with
had spent two weeks last July at the Toronto Summer Institute. This international annual event focuses on
the inclusion of individuals with disabilities. While she was at the institute
she discovered two wonderful stories.
Contributed by Ashley Woodfolk, Marketing
Manager, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
I have been a lover of reading for my entire
life. I started reading before I was five, and I never stopped. And yet, I have
never written a letter to an author besides once, when I was ten, for a school
For generations, March 3 has been a
special day in Japan, when families pray for good health and happiness for
their daughters. It’s called Girl’s Day or Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival). The
dolls, handed down from mother to eldest daughter, represent the imperial court
and are thought to bring good luck.
As a child, born and raised in
California, Girl’s Day meant special time with my mom and little sister. Following
tradition, our mother would set up the ceramic dolls dressed in silk with
miniature accessories on a platform. We’d eat mochi (sweet rice cakes) and take
pictures with the doll display. Sometimes Mom would dress us in kimonos. When I
grew older, we expanded the tradition: I invited my girlfriends from elementary
school to celebrate with us. We ate cake and played games, much like a birthday
party. When I got married, Mom gave me her dolls.