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Why We Need Diversity in Literature

Little Pickle Press believes that diversity is important in literature for children and adults. When the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks started to trend on Twitter, it was a moment of solidarity for us as something in which we already believed. Our books represent stories as diverse as consciously possible and the illustrations of them equally so. In making this a priority, Little Pickle Press is already out in front of the call to action for diversity so we wanted to share some articles that lend to this discussion in powerful ways.

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Diversity Articles

The Diversity Issue of the School Library Journal delivers over a dozen pertinent articles to the diversity question in literature that ranges from book lists to cross-racial picture books to the “whitewashing” of book covers.

Children’s book author Walter Dean Myers wrote a kickoff piece for The New York Times that addressed the question Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? In it, he describes and breaks down the numbers part of the equation:

Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

The Guardian published a piece by Alison Flood that reflects that the problem isn’t just seen here in the United States with regard to a lack of diversity. In the UK this is also reflected in libraries and shelves (be sure to click the links to the lists for Black girls and American Indians for more resources):

“Your kid’s/school’s/library’s shelf doesn’t look like America,” wrote Weiner on Twitter. “If publishers see a market for books with non-white main characters, they’ll give us more.” She was inundated with suggestions, from titles by Sherman Alexie and Malorie Blackman to Myers himself, with readers and authors also sending her lists from “25 Empowering Books for Little Black Girls” to 30 “outstanding” books about American Indians.”

NPR’s “Morning Edition” has a piece worth listening to as well titled As Demographics Shift, Kids’ Books Stay Stubbornly White that any librarian or teacher or parent would appreciate. Elizabeth Blair writes that parents are a powerful influence for their children when they offer up a diverse set of library books for their shelves at home:

When kids are presented with bookshelves that unbalanced, parents can have a powerful influence. Take 8-year-old Havana Machado, who likes Dr. Seuss and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. At her mothers’ insistence, Havana also has lots of books featuring strong Latinas, likeJosefina and Marisol from the American Girl Doll books. She says she likes these characters because, with their long, dark hair and olive skin, they look a lot like her.

Another NPR piece by the CodeSwitch authors shared a perspective of diversity in comic books and how that informs characterization about superheroes in Who Gets to Be a Superhero? Race and Identity in Comics.

To understand the genesis of the discussion and the ensuing hashtag, Malinda Lo shared an article featuring author Ellen Oh, one of those spearheading the diversity campaign with her piece titled #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign Kicks Off Today! The quote not to be missed here is this:

But what if we got a lot more people shouting with us. What if we took over twitter with our voices? Then people would have to listen to us. And then what if we pointed them in the direction of things they could do to support us.

If nothing else, check out the hashtag on Twitter to capture the essence of the ongoing conversation and join us as we support it. Check out our book titles as well to see the collection of diversity we already carry and help us push the message that WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS!

2 thoughts on “Why We Need Diversity in Literature

  1. Having been the victim of racism and bigotry, I agree with this wholeheartedly. I can’t imagine the difference that more diversity in children’s literature could make- teaching our children the accept and celebrate other cultures and ideas and such can only help fight against these things, which are born of ignorance.
    Once again, Little Pickle is walking their talk, something I love about this company!

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