As a librarian I know from experience and research that publishers do not publish enough books by and about people of color. This year, I have talked with librarians in Champaign school about how to support a growing national movement calling for more diversity in children’s literature. One way we have decided to do this is by tallying our book fairs to determine how diversity is represented. In this way we can both commit to purchasing diverse books for our libraries and ask Scholastic to improve the diversity in their book fair offerings.
I tallied our book fair by looking at the book covers for all of the fiction books in the display cases and counting the number of people of color featured. I did my best to identify race as kids might and occasionally consulted the internet to figure out how the main character was identified within the story.
I will be sharing this tally with Scholastic and making a specific request for more books that represent Asian American and Hispanic students. I will also continue to advocate for books that represent African American characters. And I will commit to buying these books for the Kenwood Library. Our kids deserve to see themselves and the classmates represented in books.
You can help too! Are you a parent? A teacher? A kid? You have power as a consumer to demonstrate to publishers that books by and about people of color make a profit. You can purchase books by and about people of color, request them at your library, and write to publishers to tell them that you care.
Perhaps most importantly, choose to diversify your reading! At the end of the day, reading helps us learn to appreciate our own heritage and it helps us build bridges of understanding with people who are not like us. Here are a couple of resources to help get you started. . .
We Need Diverse Books’ Resource Page - Browse links to blogs and websites highlighting many diversity resources including LGBT, religious and disability experiences.
Champaign Public Library African American Fiction List - Check out books from your public library featuring African American characters and authors.
US Census data on children - https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2008/demo/2011-childs-day.html
Cooperative Children’s Book Center publishing statistics - https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp