Today I was asked about cultural diversity in books and what recommendations I had for MG and YA books for a book club. In the amount of time that it would normally take me to come up with 150-200 authors, I could only think of about 25 authors. I am sure that there are several that I have forgotten (though I didn't forget 150), but seriously, we need to find ways to encourage and support more authentic cultural diversity in books.On April 29th, author Kate Messner wrote a blog post entitled, More Than Words: A Challenge for Everyone Who's Been Asking for More Diversity in Kids' Books.
Then came #weneeddiversebooks tumblr page with a Social Media Challenge.
All day Thursday, people posted pictures to Twitter and Facebook and other sites indicating why they believe we need diverse books.
Here are two of my reasons:
Jax (age 13) #WeNeedDiverseBooks because in life no one's as similar as they imply it in books. Yes, she came up with this one on her own. As a bi-racial child in Southern California, Jax is surrounded by an incredible amount of diversity, including many other children who are also bi-racial. Yet, as a huge reader, how often does she get to see herself represented in a book?
Of course, the little one got involved too. Her sign says, "We need diverse books because if we didn't the books would be the same!" Though I am not certain how fully she understands the concept, I want to know that as she grows into her identity as a reader that she will be able to find others like her.
One of my biggest reason for wanting to see more diversity in kid lit is that many of the classrooms that I go into on a daily basis are nearly 100% children of color. For years, I have been troubled that they do not get to hear their stories being read aloud in a classroom. And for students with disabilities, there is even less representation in children's and young adult literature. We need to demand and expect that more authentic diverse stories be written. We need to support the buying of books with greater diversity within the pages, and we need to support the authors who write these stories.
My first TED Talk that I discovered is and probably will continue to be my favorite Ted Talk. It is called The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Even if you have listened to it before, please listen to it again in celebration of why #weneeddiversebooks.
For additional resources check out the following Links & Blogs:
Rich in Color
Diversity in YA
Disabilities in Kid Lit
SLJ: The Diversity Issue
NYT's post by Walter Dean Myers