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.
VP & Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, Random House
Senior Year. Second Semester. It started with a Children’s Literature class
I took with Jane Yolen. I admit, I
hadn’t read any children’s books…since middle school, seventh grade, back in my
day. And I had definitely never heard of
Natalie Babbitt and Steven Kellogg, part of the course reading. I read TUCK EVERLASTING and was profoundly
moved – and horrified that I had missed out on Natalie Babbitt because I was
“too old” when she started writing children’s books. (Then I binge read everything else by Natalie
Babbitt.) Same with Steven Kellogg, only
I was able to read all of Steven’s picture books in one day.
Fast forward. I’ve graduated from college. I’m in Taiwan, teaching English as a second
language and loathing it. Teaching is
not my avocation. For solace, I reread
and reread the three books I brought with me: RAMONA THE PEST, PIPPI
LONGSTOCKING (remember, second semester course reading) and THE JOURNALS OF
SYLVIA PLATH (Remember, I’m all of twenty one, full of recent college graduate
Upon my return to the States, I
have a new career plan. I’m from New
York City. That’s where most all the
publishers are: I should get a job in publishing, children’s publishing. My Chinese immigrant parents are aghast. Odd enough to choose publishing as a career
choice; why am I making it even harder by choosing a niche like children’s
books? I won’t be swayed. Even though I know nothing about the business
(Remember, this is the mid 80s.) out of my newly discovered passion for
children’s books, I’m determined to work in children’s publishing only. And since I’m an English major, a job in the
editorial department makes the most sense.
It doesn’t really occur to me that there are a myriad of jobs in the
publishing sector and I don’t have to limit myself to one department. (Today, I tell students and interns: Don’t do
it this way!)
“Child, what are you going to do with that degree?”
I was full of pride on the day I graduated college—until Grandma
Lynell asked me that simple question. You would think that someone with a
nearly perfect GPA and two graduate school acceptance letters would know exactly how to respond. My goal was to
become a professor of African-American literature and black feminist thought. But
I hung my head low because I felt that I had not only tricked myself into
thinking I was completely sure of my life’s goal, but that I had also duped
those women and men who sacrificed so much for me to be able to walk across the
stage that day.
I laughed it off and went about celebrating, but Granny’s
question hit me—hard.
many children of Asian immigrants, I grew up believing there are only two paths
you can take in life: pursue medicine, or pursue law. It never occurred to me
as a kid that I could follow anything other than the path my parents so
carefully laid out for me: college close to home, stable job, Asian husband, a
litter of babies. “Dream jobs” are for
white people, I was always told, not
knowing that, I had a deep, deep love for reading. At any given point in my
childhood, I’d be buried in a story, accompanied by the likes of Pooh, of Harry
Potter, of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. My parents would encourage my love of books
because they knew it would help me in my studies. But little did they know that
this early reinforcement would lead to my wanting to make a career out of it,
to rebel against the blueprint they’d made for my life since before I was born.
Publicity Assistant at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
I’m from a South Asian immigrant family. For my traditional
parents, a woman’s ultimate end goal should be getting married and taking care
of a family. It’s no surprise that I don’t share this exclusive view, and I
credit reading with helping me understand a culture I didn’t experience at
home. I learned about things like the kinds of foods that were eaten for dinner
or lunch; the different types of relationships between children and their
parents; and social interactions and phrases more commonly used in mainstream
Western culture. Though it was extremely hard to find Indian characters to
relate to in the books I read throughout my academic career, it was literature that
would help me understand the world around me.
It became more evident to me that I wanted to work with
books—but the question was how. When I finally connected the fact that the
little logos on the spine of my books stood for publishing houses and that
there were actual people who worked to bring books out into the world, I
decided I wanted to pursue publishing. Deciding was one thing, but pursuing was
an arduous path.
I was a sophomore English major at Spelman College, spending
the afternoon in the Office of Career Planning and Development. I had started
to get anxious about not knowing what I’d do after graduation, and needed to
find an internship for that summer. People often asked me why I was working
toward an English degree if not to pursue teaching or law, and I’d say that I
just really loved to read and think about books. I had been that way my entire
I had almost browsed the entire catalog of internships when
I noticed a large envelope that was underneath a stack of papers and other envelopes.
It caught my eye because a familiar logo was printed above the return address:
the red bar of Scholastic. I was immediately intrigued because I had, like many
kids, grown up reading and loving Scholastic books. I opened the envelope.
Associate Publicist at HarperCollins Children’s Books
Let’s get this out of the way first.
Yes, I work in publishing. Yes, my name really IS Booki.
Sometimes I joke that I got hired because of my name. Who knows, that might be kind of true.
To be honest, I didn’t plan on working in publishing. Actually, I didn’t plan on studying writing or literature, or anything book-related at all. At one point, I was heading towards biochemistry and pharmacy school. To be fair, at another time, I was thinking pretty seriously about becoming an elephant trainer.
One constant, though, is that I have always been a book person. When I was forced, (as we all eventually are) to really consider the future, I thought about what I liked and what I wanted to spend my time doing. It always came back to books.
Senior Editorial Manager for the Teens & BookBeat Scholastic Reading Clubs
I didn’t realize publishing was an actual career until I was a few years into college. Growing up, my mom had been clear that I was the one who would be a doctor (with my brother the lawyer and my sister the accountant*). It should be noted that I’m not good at math or science.
Unfortunately for my mother, when I was fourteen, she gave me a copy of The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. It’s a heavily romanticized version of Michelangelo’s life. Beyond that, it’s about loving your work, and being passionate about what you do. He sacrificed everything to able to create and carve. Agony became a book that I read once a year. (I think we can agree that what comes next is pretty much my mom’s fault.)
Two things happened after my freshman year of college. I’d floundered through one year of pre-med and hadn’t done well (remember? Not good at math or science). Not long after grades were released, I had a conversation with my older brother. He had just met someone who worked at Tor and immediately thought of his nerdy sister who read all the time. He suggested I talk with her. I thought of Agony. I thought about books. I knew that in my life, reading was the thing that excited me most. This was the lead-in to the Big Change: I became an English major.
It’s not carving marble, but telling your Indian parents that you’re not going to be the doctor they spent 19 years expecting to have? Terrifying.
They took solace in the fact that maybe I could still be a lawyer. Ha! It’s a difficult thing, breaking up with your parent’s idea of the future for something new and different.