- To diversify and balance bookshelves everywhere, that all our children can find themselves reflected and celebrated in libraries, schools and homes across the nation.
- To move the diverse books discussion beyond a focus simply on the lack of numbers to also consider content and impact by translating research findings so that they are accessible and useful.
To move the diverse books discussion beyond a focus simply on the lack of numbers to a much more nuanced exploration of who (which groups) are represented in recent American children's picture books and how (what themes predominate for each group), and what that communicates about how members of each group are perceived in contemporary America. Our current focus is on depictions of racial and cultural diversity.
We bring together the current national conversation about diverse books with existing and ongoing social science research on the topic. The former is largely driven by an emphasis on increasing the number of diverse books published annually, the latter is largely driven by an exploration of the impact diverse books and how they can be used to effect attitude change.
Improving cultural accuracy is an absolutely essential step towards necessary change in diverse children’s literature all children should be able to find authentic mirrors and windows in the books they read. But even when titles are free of stereotypes and misinformation, a collection can send messages that might not be what those who share books with children intend. A diverse group of culturally authentic books might still imply, for instance, that the Black experience is defined by pain and struggle, that Native people all lived long ago, that Asian, Latinx and Middle Eastern American lives are exotically foreign. Thematic analysis offers an additional tool to librarians and educators, publishers and parents, as they seek to create collections of titles that offer a wide and balanced range of messages about racially and culturally underrepresented groups.
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 and centralize 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 ("diverse" compared to whom?).
- When choosing categories for evaluating and coding, references to the dominant culture can’t be avoided, since books featuring indigenous people and people of color are a record of a minority racial/cultural experience, often one of marginalization.
- The majority of children's books, including multicultural titles, continues to be created by White authors and illustrators, and agented, acquired, published, reviewed, sold and collected by businesses and institutions that are majority White.
Therefore, as we work to transform the world of picture books to better reflect our children, 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.