Breaking News – DBF Wins EMIERT Multicultural Award!

Header Image with Diverse BookFinder branded logo and colors. Reads "DBF Newsflash."

We are thrilled to announce that an article based on DBF data, entitled, “Room for Improvement: Picture Books Featuring BIPOC Characters, 2015-2020”, has been awarded the 2024 American Library Association (ALA) Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) David Cohen/EMIERT Multicultural Award (ALA/EMIERT Press Release).

A round starburst logo in the colors orange, blue, and green. The logo for the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT)

The Ethnic and Multicultural Information and Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) serves as a source of information for recommended ethnic and multilingual collections, services, and programs. The David Cohen/EMIERT Multicultural Award recognizes recent articles that include significant new research related to the understanding and promotion of multiculturalism in libraries in North America. We couldn’t be more honored to have been selected for this award!

Co-authored by Lisely Laboy, Dr. Rachael Elrod, Dr. Krista Aronson, and Brittany Kester, this paper explores the representation of Black, Indigenous Peoples, and People of Color (BIPOC) characters in picture books published in the United States between 2015 and 2020, highlighting trends, and their potential impact on cultural awareness and understanding. Advocating for a more thoughtful and inclusive approach to cultural representation in children’s literature and illuminating specific gaps in the stories currently available on the market.

An Example of Our Findings:

We had a number of findings emerge from the Diverse BookFinder data we examined. Below is a small sample of some of the trends we noticed.

The Rise of the Racially Ambiguous Character:

  • As shown in the graph below, we saw a steady increase in Any Child books featuring Brown-Skinned/Race Unspecified characters since 2015. While we believe that this is the result of an increasing focus on diversity in children’s publishing, we also believe that this growth can be seen as problematic. The increased presence of racially ambiguous characters in Any Child stories implies that BIPOC children are only universally relatable when they’ve been stripped of their culture. Similarly, this trend also tells us that the response of publishers to the call for more diversity in children’s books lacks depth and nuance.
Graph of Diverse BookFinder data on the presence of BIPOC characters in "Any Child" books.

Important Gaps Identified:

Through further analysis of our findings, we were also able to identify some important gaps in the picture book publishing industry. We described these gaps in terms of Race/Culture and Central Themes (i.e. Any Child, Beautiful Life, Cross-Group, and Oppression & Resilience). The largest gaps we discovered include the following:

  • Any Child books featuring Asian, Indigenous, Latinx, and Middle Eastern characters.
  • Beautiful Life books featuring Black/African/African American, Brown-Skinned and/or Race Unspecified characters.
  • Cross-Group books featuring BIPOC characters interacting with each other without a white character.
  • Oppression & Resilience books featuring Asian, Indigenous, Latinx, and Middle Eastern characters.

For a complete discussion of our findings and to examine the data yourself, please visit the full-text article.

The authors and the Diverse BookFinder would like to thank EMIERT for their consideration.

Photo of Lisely Laboy

Lisely Laboy, MLIS, is the Project Manager for the Diverse BookFinder IMLS-funded grant project; “Middle Grade and Young Adult Books with Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color: Where are they?”

Photo of Rachael Elrod

Rachael Elrod, Ed.D., is the Associate Chair of Departmental Libraries and Director of the Education Library at the University of Florida and PI for the Diverse BookFinder IMLS-funded grant project.

Photo of Krista Aronson

Krista Aronson, Ph.D., is an Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Psychology at Bates College. She is the founder of the Diverse BookFinder and Co-PI for the Diverse BookFinder IMLS-funded grant project.

Photo of Brittany Kester

Brittany Kester, MLIS, is an Education Librarian and Ph.D. student at the University of Florida and Co-PI for the Diverse BookFinder IMLS-funded grant project.

Stay in touch