Open letter to publishers
Publishers try to bring us books that we want to read and to buy. We have asked for more diverse titles and they have tried. The recent uptick in titles by and about minority group characters has been fabulous to see. But in a recent presentation I gave, my audience of librarians said that is not enough.
Publishers, I hope you are reading, because here is what those 175 librarians want.
They want more stories where children can see themselves. Not just in skin color but also in circumstances.
They want books about families with children living in trailer parks or being homeless.
They want stories about families where substance abuse is a problem; where the battle against drug addiction is fought.
They want books about separation from family members, whether from military deployment, from travel for work, from jail, from care issues, or from immigration issues.
They want books about children or family members who are amputees and wear prostheses. This is especially important in military communities.
And they want these books for elementary children, so yes, in picture book format. Because this is where the stories will do the most good. Because this is where children cannot verbalize what their greatest fears may be but they can recognize themselves and their circumstances in a book. Because children can look through the window of a book and see others who may not be the same but who also struggle. And school librarians can match them with that book if it has been published.
Thank you for reading.
Author: Karen Perry
Former school library media specialist. Reviewer. Online instructor for Old Dominion University and University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the school library program.
Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development
Dear Knowledge Quest,
We hear you loud and clear: young readers, and the librarians who serve them, want more books depicting more people and more of the diverse realities they inhabit.
The number of diverse books available through mainstream publishers is at a low. Statistics from the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center show that only 14% of the 3,400 books written for children in 2015 were by and/or about people of color (https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp). Meanwhile, the ethnic balance of our nation is shifting as more than 34% of the U.S. population are people of color. This underrepresentation of people of color in, and creating, books for children is a microcosm of the lack of diversity in books in general. The books available for American readers do not reflect all American readers or our lives.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services is aware of these statistics and hears you, too. The need you’ve expressed is one and the same with the need that led these offices to create the Our Voices initiative, which launched last month. We amplify Knowledge Quest’s request for more, please.
Our Voices is an initiative founded with the mission that all communities find distinguished collections of diverse, quality, locally produced literature at their libraries. In order to realize that mission, we need more: more books, which also means more people at every point of the book ecosystem advocating for them. Our Voices is directed by an advisory council of 12 individuals from across that book ecosystem. Together we’re a diverse group of professionals with experience in writing, publishing, reviewing, book distribution and sales, librarianship, scholarship, teaching, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. We’ve heeded the call to commit to promoting and advocating for more great, diverse books, and we invite you to join us.
Knowledge Quest and fellow members of the book ecosystem: take the pledge to promote the growth of diverse, quality content in library collections. You can take the pledge online, and you can share it with your networks.
Our Voices will also pilot a model for connecting small, independent, and self-published content creators to libraries and readers. We’ll be starting with Chicago as a test site for this model, and our end goal is to create a widely replicable pathway for more books getting into readers’ hands through their libraries. That’s one strategy of response to the call for more. We’ll have more about that pilot program in coming weeks.
For now, we encourage you to take the pledge. We join Knowledge Quest in the call for more, please. Our readers deserve it.
The Our Voices Advisory Council