We aspire to be a go-to resource for librarians, educators, publishers, creators, and parents who seek to create collections in which all children can see themselves -- and each other -- reflected in the picture books they read.
What is our mission?
- To inform the diverse books movement by providing data and translating research so that is accessible and useful.
- To move the diverse books discussion beyond a focus on increasing the number of books to a deeper consideration of how Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC) are represented within diverse books.
- To identify dominant trends in representations of BIPOC by exploring who (which racial/cultural groups) is represented in current diverse picture books and how (what messages are being sent).
What makes us unique?
The important discussion about representation within the diverse books movement is typically centered around:
- a broad focus on “diverse” vs. “non-diverse” books -- which compares books featuring BIPOC to those featuring white (or animal characters, in the case of picture books) -- to highlight disparities.
- a specific focus on “good” vs. “bad” books -- which reviews diverse books for authentic vs. problematic (offensive or stereotypical) representations of BIPOC.
While comparing books featuring BIPOC to those with white (or animal) characters reveals important disparities about who is missing, it can also reinforce Whiteness as the industry standard. And while careful review of some diverse books can provide necessary critical education for readers, it cannot identify trends in representations of BIPOC without broader data focused on ALL diverse books.
Our unique focus on collecting and analyzing ALL current picture books featuring Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC) allows us to consider diverse books in relation to each other and identify representation trends within the world of "diverse books" itself.
Combining the above approaches gives us all more in-depth information about where we are now and where we need to go next.
What resources do we provide?
We've cataloged and analyzed thousands of children's trade picture books published or distributed in the U.S. since 2002 to surface and create:
A Unique Circulating Collection: We collect all depictions of BIPOC characters in picture books. Anyone with a library card can check these books out through Interlibrary Loan.
A Search Tool: We offer a first-of-its-kind online, searchable database that makes it easier for everyone to locate and explore picture books featuring BIPOC characters.
What obstacles do we face in this work?
This project is a work in progress. Even as we attempt to shift the spotlight to those who have been underrepresented in children's books, the industry in which we operate continues to marginalize Black and Indigenous people and People of Color by centering Whiteness.
That is, because Whiteness is dominant and normative,it:
- is commonly used as the reference point to which all else is measured (e.g. "diverse" compared to whom?).
- inevitably shapes our analysis of trends within BIPOC representation (since books featuring BIPOC are a record of a minoritized experience, often one of racial/cultural marginalization).
- determines who creates, agents, acquires, publishes, reviews, sells, and collects the majority of children's picture books, including the "diverse" ones.
Therefore, even as we work to transform the world of picture books to better reflect all children, we recognize that we are part of the system we're trying to change.
How can you contribute?
Many thoughtful people have already contributed to our evolving language, data, and analyses. We invite you to be part of this conversation and welcome critiques of our content -- especially any suggestions for improvement.