Recently a group of authors launched a social media campaign to raise awareness around the significant lack of diversity in children’s literature. These authors, including Ellen Oh, Aisha Saeed and Chelsea Pitcher, hope to bring this issue to the forefront of people’s minds.
To put it plainly, we couldn’t agree more. There is a true need for diversity in the books we read to our children. As they learn and grow, exposing young minds to the vast and varied cultures across the world will help foster respect and recognition in the value each of our beliefs and customs offers. It is up to all of us as independent authors and storytellers to share our experiences with the world as a way of exposing others to our cultures.
So far, we have fallen short of achieving this goal. A 2012 report conducted by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that only 3.3 percent of children’s books published in the previous year were about African-Americans, 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans, 1.5 percent were about Latinos and a mere 0.6 percent were about American Indians.
Clearly, there is a true call for us to take action and write. As Johannes Neur perfectly captured in her blog post for the NY Public Library, “literature has the power to instantiate universal human truths through stories told around the globe, across gender lines, and from varying religious perspectives.” Think of Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and – one of my personal favorites – Zora Neale Hurston. They all had beautiful and powerful stories to tell and with each one, they opened our eyes to a world we may have otherwise never known. At times their books would make us smile, while at others we’d share the pain and emotions of the characters they created.
The We Need Diverse Books Campaign began last week with a plea to the public to visit the project website where they are asking readers to take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because …”. Check out the submissions so far, and we encourage you to join the conversation and use your networks to bring awareness to this movement. Simply tweet your support using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. You can also follow @diversebooks for ongoing updates.
It is our duty to celebrate this diversity so that the next generation can see themselves in their books and develop their own self worth and love of literature. Share your stories however you are able. If you need a platform for your voice or a little help along the way, we are here to support you.
Start writing and share your experiences and culture. Tweet us to let us know you’re helping us make a difference or post a picture of yourself with your book (or your favorite) to show the rich diversity among independent authors.