Ten Steps to Promote Diversity in Children’s Literature
by Wade Hudson
This Diversity Books Pledge was developed after attending Day of Diversity, sponsored by the Association for Library Services to Children and the Children’s Book Council and held on January 30, 2015 during the American Library Association Mid-Winter conference in Chicago, IL.
The lack of real diversity in children’s literature is a problem that has been difficult to conquer. Many have confronted it over the years, doing what they could to effect important change. In 1920, W.E.B. DuBois, Jessie Fausett and Augustus G. Dill established The Brownies Book, a monthly magazine that writer and university associate professor Katharine Capshaw Smith cites as “the beginning of Black children’s literature.”
During the decades that followed, Langston Hughes, Arna Bontemps, Effie Lee Newsome, playwright Willis Richardson, artist Lois Mailou Jones and others continued to produce works that helped to move Black children’s literature forward. In 1965, The Council on Interracial Books for Children was formed to “promote and develop children’s literature that adequately reflects a multiracial society.” In 1969, Where Does the Day Go, written by Walter Dean Myers, won a Council contest and became the celebrated author’s first published book. In 1968, To Be a Slave, by Julius Lester, illustrated by Tom Feelings, was published (and earned a 1968 Newbery Honor). Virginia Hamilton’s first book, Zeely, was published in 1969. In 1970, the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table of the American Library Association established the Coretta Scott King Award to recognize outstanding works for children written by African Americans.
Other awards recognizing the outstanding works of writers and illustrators of color followed, including the Pura Belpré Award. During the past several decades, independent presses such as Just Us Books, Lee & Low Books, Arte Publico Press, Cinco Puntos, and others, have led the charge–dedicating their catalogs to quality books for children and young adults that reflect our nation’s diversity. Major publishers have added to the number of diverse books as well. Yet, real diversity in children’s literature remains a goal rather than a reality. (see: “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” by the late Walter Dean Myers)
The truth is, children’s book publishing faces the same challenges that society faces when it comes to ethnic, racial and gender fairness, equity and justice. But, just as in society, we all must play a role if we are to make change that is transformative.
The Diversity Pledge below offers steps anyone can take to help ensure that literature for our children and young people is truly representative of who we are as a diverse world. Will you take the pledge to take steps to make a difference?
DIVERSITY BOOKS PLEDGE
Created by Wade Hudson (© 2014)
To help increase the number of quality children’s books that celebrate diversity, and to support the diverse books already available,
I Pledge To:
- Each year, personally introduce 10 different children’s books that reflect our nation’s diversity to educators, librarians, bookstore managers, and parents—anyone who has the influence and/or power to help increase the number of these books within our body of children’s literature.
- Gift at least 5 of these books to children other than my own—whether they’re neighbors’, friends’ or co-workers’ children; children at my place of worship or local youth organizations; or as donations to other organizations in my community.
- Try to give at least 2 or 3 of these books to children who might not normally have diverse books in their homes.
- Make a special effort to buy some of these books from independent publishers, independent bookstores and vendors, including those operated by people of color.
- Lift up the importance of having books that reflect our nation’s diversity at every opportunity—not just within my circle of friends, but among others with whom I don’t normally interact.
- When visiting a book store, encourage the manager to include a more diverse offering of children’s books. Take the initiative to purchase at least one multicultural title to show my commitment to supporting these books.
- Encourage educators and school administrators to include multicultural books among their classroom resources.
- Encourage book reviewers and bloggers to include more multicultural books among the books they review.
- Publicly celebrate positive multicultural children’s literature, including posting multicultural books and reviews of those books on my personal Facebook page and other social media platforms.
- Encourage others to take this pledge.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Wade Hudson is president and CEO of Just Us Books, Inc., independent publisher of children’s books that celebrate the diversity of Black people, history and culture. You can follow him on Twitter at @hudsonwade and find his books at http://justusbooks.com.
Related Links Provided by AALBC.com
- 100 Important Books for Children
- Best-Selling Children’s Books
- More, Books for Children Whitewash the Horrors of Slavery
- Transcript from Panel Discussion (featuring Wade Hudson): “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”
- “The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015” (failed to select a single book featuring a Black illustrator)