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.
New York, NY – September 28, 2018 – The CBC Diversity Committee is proud to announce
the winners of the inaugural CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards.These
awards will be given annually to professionals or organizations in the
children’s publishing industry who have made a significant impact on the publishing
and marketing of diverse books, diversity in hiring and mentoring, and efforts
that create greater awareness with the public about the importance of diverse
The winners were announced at the CBC Annual Meeting in New York City
on September 27, and an official ceremony and conversation with the winners
will take place on October 24 at a CBC Forum event. The winners will each
select an organization to receive one thousand dollars’ worth of children’s
books in their name.
Kapadwala, the CBC Diversity Committee’s moderator, said: “The committee had
the great joy and responsibility of reviewing nominations from across the
children’s publishing community. In making their selections, the committee has
summarized the accomplishments of these inspiring people and organizations.”
Candlewick Press sat down with T.R. Simon to discuss her new
book ‘Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground’
CP: How do
the maturing Carrie and Zora see the world differently as they approach their
book two of the Zora and Me trilogy, Zora and Carrie are now twelve going on
thirteen. Although they are still children, they have encountered the sorrow of
death along with the pride and joy that life in Eatonville affords them. What
begins to alter them now is a slowly growing awareness of the past. While
Eatonville could seem idyllic, tucked away from the daily brutality of the Jim
Crow South, it is not free from the shadow of American history, particularly
from the history of slavery. The history of slavery is a hard thing for young
people because it requires them to confront the brutality of hate and the
despair of powerlessness. Zora and Carrie grapple with the conflicted feelings
that learning about Eatonville’s history brings up while simultaneously
realizing that life is necessarily, for good and for bad, informed by the past.
CP: Why did
you choose to tell this book with dual narratives?
struggled with how to powerfully connect the fact of Jim Crow to the
institution of slavery. Ultimately, I decided that the most effective way to do
that was to show them side by side. Reconstruction was the attempt of newly
freed slaves to enact self-determination, and Jim Crow was a formalization of
the backlash to Reconstruction. If you don’t understand how slavery operated
and the ideas of race that made slavery go, you can’t understand Jim Crow as
the logical social extension of that violently inhumane practice.
Dreamers is your own story of immigrating to the
United States from Mexico in 1994 with your newborn son. What inspired you
write Dreamers almost 24 years later?
I was working
on a graphic novel when Donald Trump was elected president. My heart sunk. I
could not believe that the man who had accused Mexican immigrants as criminals
and rapists had been elected to lead the United States. I felt unable to work,
and that my stories made no sense anymore. I also felt afraid of what would
come next for immigrant families like mine, like those of my friends and like
those that my books had been written for and about.
My editor, Neal
Porter, saw that I was stuck and offered his support and patience. He reassured
me that he was there for me until I was ready to produce a new book, he also
told me that he thought the book I should be working on was my own immigrant
I have a
friend who is a children’s book author and illustrator, and several years ago
she decided to quit her job as a tenured professor in order to pursue a more
creative life. She started teaching classes about writing and illustrating
children’s books, and she encouraged (well, pressured, really) me to sign up. I
said I would – I have a hard time saying “no” – and then thought “oh wow, what
did I just get myself into?” But it turned out to be one of the best things I
ever did. I also had no idea how hard it is to write a high-quality story for
children! It’s much harder than it looks. Taking that class showed me how to be
creative in an entirely new way, and writing for children fuels me in ways that
I can’t really put into words.
another reason why I do this, though. Not long after I took that class, I
started playing with the idea of writing a story about an LGBTQ+ Pride
celebration. When I was researching comps, I was stunned to find that not only
were there very few picture books featuring LGBTQ+ themes, but only one had
ever been written about a Pride parade (and it was published almost thirty
years ago). That was so disturbing to me – that LGBTQ+ people were virtually
invisible in children’s books. And I see on a daily basis what that
invisibility does to a community. Most of my college students (including those
who are LGBTQ+ identified) have never heard of the Pink Scare, or the Stonewall
Riots, or the AIDS crisis, for that matter. They know about HIV, but they don’t
know how the gay community was decimated by it. That lack of knowledge is
terrifying to me, and I want children AND adults to know about our history, our
culture, and how we got here. That’s why I wrote books like This Day in June, When You Look Out the Window (a book about Phyllis Lyon and Del
Martin), and Sewing the Rainbow (my
latest book about Gilbert Baker and the creation of the rainbow flag).
As a longtime autism advocate, I
spend a lot of time thinking about diversity. My son Jake—who’s illustrated two
of my series for Macmillan—is on the autism spectrum and also has a
language-based learning delay, which has made reading especially difficult. But
stories are so important to us that Jake and I found a way to improve his
reading—and to help kids around the world be better readers.
When Jake was in fourth grade and
books started getting harder (i.e., fewer pictures), he decided to draw his
vocabulary words on index cards to learn them. Our garage is filled with boxes
and boxes of these index cards with stick figure drawings illustrating words
like “royalty,” “embarrassed,” and “military.” Friends would see the cards and
laugh at Jake’s cartoons—not only because of his sense of humor but for the spot-on
accuracy of how his drawings illuminated his vocabulary words.
As a novelist, I asked myself the
quintessential writing question: What if?
What if I wrote a novel about a kid who has a difficult time reading but
still loves books and stories? What if Jake illustrated the novel with his stick
figures? What if we could help other reluctant readers in the process of
My son and I collaborated on what
would become My Life As A Book, which
is now a series of seven novels in twenty-six languages. (My Life As A Youtuber is the latest.) It’s not the success of this
middle-grade series that humbles me, however; it’s the can-do attitude of a kid
with special needs taking control of his own learning process.
Over the past seven years, Jake and
I have traveled the country doing author-and-illustrator visits to elementary
and middle schools, talking to students about the different ways people learn. In
our series, our main character is a visual learner, so drawing is the way he
processes information. When Derek reads, he imagines the story as a movie in
his head, the same way experts teach children with reading disabilities to
picture stories. When we visit schools, I’m always amazed at the different ways
people learn: kids with auditory processing issues, children with tactile and
sensory concerns, or some kids who really need infographics to make sense of data.
Diversity of learning is an important topic in education today, one that I’ve
studied firsthand to help Jake make sense of and learn to process information
in his own way. (My path to learning includes copious amounts of coffee and
Having a series that’s a staple in
ESL and Special Ed classes—not to mention enjoyed by neurotypical middle-grade readers
who just want a funny story—thrills me to no end. More important, it’s given my
son purpose, along with a career doing something he loves. Sometimes working
through things that are most difficult for us can lead us to discover not only
solutions to our own obstacles but to other people’s as well. Great job, Jake
Tashjian. You make me proud.
Janet Tashjian is the author of the popular My Life
series including My Life as a Book, My Life as a Stuntboy, My
Life as a Cartoonist, My Life as a Joke, My Life as a Gamer, and My
Life as a Ninja, as well as the Einstein the Class Hamster series,
illustrated by her son, Jake Tashjian. Jake and Janet live in Studio
loved them, from going to Hebrew school, to my parent’s
tradition of letting us eat ice cream for dinner on April Fool’s day, to the
way we lined our shoes up in straight, neat rows before going inside my Nai Nai
and Ye Ye’s apartment.
love of traditions has lasted into my adult life, and I often wonder if my
family and our traditions are the reason
that I write. My mother’s family is
Jewish, and came over from Russia several generations ago. My father’s family is Chinese and Christian,
and my Ye Ye was an evangelical Christian minister. I’ve inherited a rich family history that
teems with stories, from my grandparents’ accounts of their close escape from
Communist China with my father as an infant, to the stories my mother’s mother
tells of Passover Seders all in Hebrew and Yiddish, with linen napkins so big
they spilled from your lap to the floor.
We’re also a family that continually generates new narratives, because
when you ask your evangelical minister grandfather to please come up to say an
Aaliyah at your Bat Mitzvah, that simple act is, in itself, a pretty excellent
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
Sandy Tharp-Thee, author of
The Apple Tree, shares her book list “10 Native Books to Inspire the Young Ones and Young at Heart!” Check out the preview below and the full list & 25 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Buffalo Song by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
The story of how the buffalo nearly became extinct, but because people cared enough and worked together we can still enjoy the American buffalo today. It offers insight to the meaning and importance of the buffalo to Native people from yesteryear to today. Based on true events, it reveals the consequences of one small buffalo being rescued by a boy and his father.
I believe the author said he spent sixteen years researching this true story. When I read it, I like to have the children sing with me. As a tribal librarian, this story allowed me to share the past, present, and future of buffalo. Today, the buffalo are no longer in danger, and we can enjoy them in the wild but also purchase the healthier bison meat. It is because of people coming together that this is possible.
Before reading this story with the children, I would share: Imagine if I could give you a gift and that gift gave you the shoes that you are wearing. Now imagine if that same gift provided your clothes, food, and even your shelter or home. What might you say to the creator that gave you such a gift? How would you care for such a gift? [picture book, ages 7 and up]
2. The Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe
One of the smallest creatures—the mouse—is drawn to the sound of the river and the idea of reaching the top of a mountain. His journey gives him a new name, “Jumping Mouse.” Along the way he discovers that he can help those in great need. The sacrifice is huge, but he freely gives, and his award in the end is life changing.
This story is precious to me because the mouse while being so small is nonetheless unafraid. Even when a buffalo and a wolf cross his path, the mouse doesn’t let his feelings of awe overcome him; instead, he humbly revels in the realization that a little mouse like he might be able to help them. Indeed, he helps the two strangers freely without question. If only we could be like the tiny mouse. One of my favorite sayings is to remember whatever we do is not wasted, and, of, course everything we do does come back. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
3. Welcome Song for Baby by Richard Van Camp
This board book is true to its title—a song to welcome a baby. Every child deserves to hear how dear, loved, cherished, and beautiful they are and how they are making the world a better place. A promise and thank you sung to the gift: the baby.
This book is a song, and I have found that babies will stop crying to listen to it sung softly. But more than that, babies need to hear the sweet words of welcome that are in this book. Siblings could easily learn the words to sing to a new brother or sister. The photographs are excellent, and I found even the youngest of children enjoy looking at real photographs. (One of my younger patrons with autism especially enjoyed books that included photographs with faces.) [picture book, ages infant and up]