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Our Categories

    • You can use the Diverse BookFinder to consider who is in a book (their racial/cultural heritage) and how they are represented in a story using our unique book categories.

We have identified nine categories that capture the messages conveyed by children’s books featuring characters of color. Every book in our collection is coded using one or more of these categories.

  1. Beautiful Life: A Focus on Culture
  2. Oppression: Struggle, Resistance, and Triumph
  3. Cross-group: Interactions Across Race and Culture
  4. Any Child
  5. Biography: Real People, Real Lives
  6. Race/Culture Concepts: Examining Difference and Commonalities
  7. Folklore: Myths, Legends and Traditional Stories
  8. Incidental: Ensemble or Background Characters of Color
  9. Informational: Factual Content Unrelated to Race or Culture

For more information and book examples, see our category chart.

  • You can also use everyday language to search for books about popular topics, for instance: adoption, birthdays, specific holidays, immigration, or diverse families.
  • We want to move the multicultural books discussion beyond a focus on increasing book numbers to consider who (which groups) is/are represented and how.

Book categories are not new and are always imperfect. Ours capture the dominant ideas that emerged as we examined our collection of picture books featuring people of color published in the United States today. Considering these categories gives us a snapshot of where we are in terms of representation and helps us envision where we might like to go.

For instance, according to our analysis, books we classify as Beautiful Life currently dominate multicultural children’s literature (38%), followed by Any Child (15%), Biography (15%), Folklore (13%) and Oppression (11%).  We’ve also identified specific trends within these categories for each racial/cultural group.

As we envision the future, we invite everyone — librarians, publishers, book creators and parents — to seek balanced and diverse portrayals both within and across racial/cultural groups, by considering the categories present on a bookshelf, and the predominance or absence of books about particular racial or cultural groups within these categories across your book collection.

Who: Our vocabulary can also help you pinpoint who is in a book, including their racial/cultural (e.g. Asian/Pacific Islander/Asian American, Bi/Multiracial, Black/African/African American, Latinx/Hispanic/Latin American, First/Native Nations/American Indian/Indigenous, Middle Eastern/North African/Arab, White/European American/Caucasian); ethnic/national (e.g. Afghan, Congolese); and tribe/tribal nation (e.g. Igbo, Shawnee Tribe) background. We code by character, not by story. A racial or cultural tag indicates that a lead character is depicted as a member of that racial/cultural group but does not mean that the story takes place within a particular culture.

Where: Our vocabulary also includes terms to describe the book’s setting: where the story takes place (e.g. United States -- Montana; as well as international locations, e.g. Nigeria).


This project is a work in progress. Even as we attempt to shift the spotlight to focus on groups that have been underrepresented in children's books, the [field/space/world] in which we operate continues to marginalize indigenous people and people of color (IPOC) and center White people. For example:

  • White culture is dominant and normative, so it is commonly used as the reference point to which other cultures are compared (i.e. "different" or "diverse" compared to whom?).
  • When choosing categories for evaluating and coding, references to the dominant culture can’t be avoided, since books featuring IPOC are a record of a minority racial/cultural experience, often one of marginalization.
  • The majority of children's books, including multicultural titles, continue to be created by White authors and illustrators, as well as agented, acquired, published, reviewed, sold and collected by businesses and institutions that are majority White.

This means that as we work to transform the world of picture books to better reflect our children, we recognize we're still part of the system we're trying to change. Many thoughtful people have contributed to our evolving concepts and language, and we invite you to be part of this conversation. We welcome critiques of our content, especially any suggestions for improvement.