We collect all depictions of Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC) in mainstream picture books published or distributed in the U.S. since 2002. Our collection is uniquely comprehensive -- to serve research and education -- and uniquely accessible through most libraries -- to serve general use.
What do we collect? | What don't we collect? | Why do we collect all depictions of BIPOC? | How do we find books for our collection? | What about self-published books? | What about titles missing from our collection? | Who can access our collection? | Do we review the books in our collection? | Will we ever expand the collection beyond picture books? | Do we include #ownvoices books? | What about forms of diversity beyond race and culture?
What do we collect?
Trade picture books that:
- feature BIPOC human characters in fiction and narrative non-fiction.
- are suitable for children in kindergarten through grade three (K-3).
- are published or distributed in the United States since 2002 (including reprints).
- are usually 32 pages in length.
- have illustrations (traditional, digital, or photography) as a key part of understanding the book (typically on every page).
- are written in English or are English bi/multilingual.
- are published by both large commercial and small indie publishers.
- are typically acquired by libraries and often appear in popular review journals and websites.
This includes graphic “novels” geared toward a K-3 audience with a picture book format (examples from our collection):
- approx. 32 pages in length
- landscape format
- hybrid of picture book & graphic novel elements
- might be wordless
What don't we collect?
- Digital books (e.g. Ebooks, audiobooks, etc.).
- Board books
- Early, easy, and leveled readers.
- Expository nonfiction books (with no narrative or element of “story”)
- Books featuring animals as primary characters -- unless the animals are clearly meant to represent people from a specific cultural context (e.g. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote) or BIPOC human characters are also central to the story (e.g. Pup 681)
- Books featuring a white main character/protagonist and a diverse background cast that serves as "wallpaper" only
- Books featuring non-human characters -- unless they are featured in fantasy/imaginary settings and are identified as BIPOC (e.g. fairies, mermaids, zombies, witches, wizards, etc.)
- Mass market (novelty books, etc.) and media tie-in titles (those based on TV/movie characters)
Why do we collect all books and not only the "good" ones?
We are a research collection, not a list of recommended titles.
Our intention is to collect every picture book featuring BIPOC characters so that we can provide data-driven insight and add to the critical discussion about diversity in children's literature in a way never done before.
Only through gathering a complete collection of all multicultural picture books will we be able to identify trends -- both "good" and "bad" -- and advocate for change on bookshelves everywhere.
How do we find books for the collection?
As anyone who has tried to build an intentional or comprehensive multicultural picture book collection knows -- it's not easy! To this end, we:
- comb through every major publisher's children's catalog on a quarterly basis using the Edelweiss+ digital platform.
- review monthly Baker & Taylor lists using a targeted set of relevant key words
- review every small/indie children's press catalog on a quarterly basis by visiting individual websites & reading through physical catalogs.
- review recommended multicultural picture book lists when/if they come to our attention, as the timing and topics vary based on sponsoring organizations.
- review annual diverse children's book award lists from the American Library Association (ALA/ALSC) and other independent organizations.
- review the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) list annually.
Our process is systematic and as exhaustive as possible.
Do we include self-published books?
We do accept donations of self-published books that meet our collection criteria, but we do not have the capacity to actively search for and locate them all.
Why don't we have ____ title?
Our goal is to collect every picture book featuring BIPOC characters published since 2002. However, multicultural picture books are hard to find -- which is a big part of why we do what we do! Let us know if you see something we've missed! If it fits our collection criteria and is not already in our acquisition/processing queue, we will add it.
Who can access our collection?
Our circulating collection is housed at Ladd Library on the Bates College campus in Lewiston, Maine. All books are available to borrow via interlibrary loan.
Do we offer reviews of the books in our collection?
Our collection is not a curated list, so we encourage you to actively and thoughtfully consider which diverse picture books you want to use with children. To support this, our book pages:
- offer info. about who is represented and how they are represented in the book.
- link to professional book reviews through the Bates library catalog.
- link to cultural or #ownvoices reviews when a book has been flagged as problematic.
- provide exclusive author/illustrator interviews when available.
We also encourage users to visit:
- our Research & Related Resources for links to tools that have been designed to help evaluate books for quality and authenticity.
- our blog for highlighted books and trends in the picture book world!
Will we expand the collection beyond picture books?
We recognize the importance of representation for children at every age and reading level and are currently looking into the funding and resources necessary to undertake a project expansion of this size.
Does the collection include #ownvoices books?
Yes. Our collection includes many books by creators (authors and illustrators) who identify with the racial/cultural group they depict within their book. We are working on including a tag for such books dependent upon our capacity and resources.
Does the collection include forms of diversity beyond race and culture?
Yes. While our focus is on books featuring Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC), of course BIPOC have ethnicities, genders, religions, abilities, and sexualities -- all of which we track in our data. In fact, a comprehensive collection that focuses on depictions of BIPOC -- like ours -- can reveal a lot about whether and how the inherently intersectional nature of social identity gets depicted in the publishing industry at large. In other words, if our collection has very few representations of LGBTQ people of color -- we can all ask (and certainly should ask), "Why not?!"