Our work started in 2010, when Krista Aronson and Anne Sibley O'Brien collaborated on a research project in Lewiston, Maine designed to explore how picture books depicting positive relationships across cultural boundaries could be used to improve non-Somali children’s views towards Somali children, and vice versa (for more, see Our Research). As depictions of Somali/non-Somali friendships were lacking, they wrote their own books and began a deeper inquiry about the number and nature of diverse books.
In 2013 Krista began visioning a content analysis of diverse picture books with Annie and then senior thesis student Brenna Callahan (Bates ‘15). Krista received an initial grant from Bates College to start building a physical collection to analyze. We have been working together ever since, welcoming librarian Christina Bell (collection manager) to the team in 2016, and consulting with librarian Deborah Tomaras who now sits on our Advisory Council.
Working together many Sunday afternoons in Portland, Maine, we have developed a deep understanding of and appreciation for racially and culturally diverse picture books, which we are happy to share with you.
We are academics and professionals with a focus on race and culture in the fields of psychology, gender studies, children’s books, and library science who care deeply about representation in children's books.
Krista is a Professor of Psychology at Bates College. Her work focuses on illuminating how people come to understand complex social constructs like race and ethnicity, including how children process and understand race as well as appropriate, effective and productive ways to discuss this topic with them; specifically, the effective use of picture books to enhance intercultural relationships and self-understanding during childhood. Her own identity as a biracial woman deeply informs her work. The Diverse BookFinder and associated work are the focus of her active research, which represents a substantial portion of the professional effort of faculty at Bates.
Annie is an award-winning author and illustrator of 36 multicultural children’s books whose work has regularly been cited for attention to authentic cultural details. She has also been engaged in education about multicultural literature, diversity and antiracism for more than forty years. Her experience of being raised bilingual and bicultural in South Korea as the daughter of White American medical missionaries was the catalyst for her lifelong focus on human difference.
Brenna graduated from Bates College in 2015, where she studied Race and Education and French and Francophone Studies. Brenna's interest in diverse picture books is inspired by her work with an early literacy intervention program in Maine and her experiences reading with students of color. After graduation she taught 6th grade English and 4th grade in western Massachusetts. Brenna then served for two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Harward Center at Bates where she coordinated college aspirations programming for local students. She is currently enrolled in a master’s program at Smith College School for Social Work.
Christina is the Humanities Librarian at Bates College’s Ladd Library where she performs traditional liaison duties related to reference, instruction, and collection development. She joined the Diverse BookFinder in 2016 as a digital project consultant, helping to expand the physical collection of diverse books and to consider how users interact with the technology to find the books. Before becoming a librarian, Christina worked in human rights and is deeply committed to information access and diversity. She earned her MLIS from Long Island University and MA in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University.
Andrea is a feminist youth studies scholar whose work focuses on how white and Muslim immigrant youth in predominantly white spaces narrate their racial-ethnic identities through gender, sexuality and religion. As a mother raising a young daughter in a multiracial and multicultural family in Maine, Andrea’s interest in books that give children access to the literature and art they need to imagine their place within a better world into being is as “personal as it is political.” She earned her BA from Colby College, and her MA and PhD from The Ohio State University, all in the field of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Our Advisory Council
Since 2007, Aishah has been a Library Teacher for the Cambridge Public School District in Massachusetts, in an elementary school which serves children from grades PreK - 5. Her journey in education began with homeschooling her 6 children and teaching kindergarten students at a private school in Sharon, MA. She went on to complete the Master's of Education/Library Media Specialist degree program at Cambridge College, presenting a capstone project on “Choosing Authentic Islamic Literature for the Elementary School Library.” As an African American Muslim woman/mother/educator, she recognized the lack of authentic Islamic literature in the elementary public school libraries and worked with other Muslim educators to provide schools with professional development seminars about Islamic culture and customs, as well as the common misconceptions voiced in the media. Aishah continues to work tirelessly not only to introduce quality, diverse literature to her students and colleagues but to make sure her students view the “mirrors and windows” of their world, helping them to see themselves as well as develop an awareness of the world around them. Aishah also writes picture book reviews for Horn Books and enjoys reading with her 7 grandchildren.
I hope that the Diverse BookFinder serves as a tool for families and educators to discover quality, diverse children’s literature, support curriculum, and enlighten readers to past and present literature that has not served the purpose of diverse representation. ~Aishah
Kirsten is the co-founder of I'm Your Neighbor Books, a website that features children’s books set in New Arrival and New American communities. The site sorts books by culture and country of origin, allowing schools, libraries, and organizations to best select and share books that represent their neighborhoods. In 2017, she and a team of librarians and authors put a curated collection of I'm Your Neighbor picture books on the road to create pop-up community conversations on immigration. The Welcoming Library, circulating in regions nationwide, uses picture books with embedded discussion questions to build dialogue about belonging and welcoming. These projects are created and maintained by Kirsten's company, Curious City. Curious City develops library programming, classroom activities, and larger community projects that center children's literature. Kirsten has a B.A. in Anthropology from Wheaton College.
The Diverse Book Finder challenges us to not just acquire diverse books, but to thoughtfully curate diverse books. The offered tools help us explore how our picture books collections can limit the representation of true community and how thoughtful curation can both reflect and connect with true community. ~Kirsten
Luis is passionate in the belief that stories can be used to increase our understanding of the world. This belief has led him to some great opportunities ranging from documentary film work, AmeriCorps program management, and Public Libraries. He is proud to work in his hometown of New Haven, CT as a library manager where he has managed the Young Minds and Family Learning Department and currently manages the Courtland S. Wilson Branch, which serves as a resource for a diverse neighborhood. Luis believes that the Diverse BookFinder "helps us make sense of the picture book world as it currently is, but can serve as guidance for what picture books can become to increase the next generation's understanding of the world in a meaningful way."
I hope that the Diverse Book Finder can create an understanding of the power of picture books...I believe that acknowledging the imperfections of what has come before can motivate us to create and do better. ~Luis
Laura is currently the Library Teacher at the Armstrong Elementary School in Westborough, MA. She has been a school librarian since 2002 and has a BA in English and Children’s Literature from Framingham State University and a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has presented at various conferences such as the Massachusetts School Library Association Conference, the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference, MassCUE, MTA Summer Conference, MTA New Teachers Conference, and the American Association of School Libraries Conference in Hartford. She also presented an EdTalk on “Razing Readers” at the MTA Summer Conference in 2013. She was a co-organizer of Edcamp Boston for 7 years, the Massachusetts School Library Association’s Professional Learning Committee Co-Chair for 2 years, and a recipient of the 2017 MSLA Service Award. Laura and her elementary library colleagues post and share at weslibraries.westboroughk12.org.
It is my hope that the Diverse BookFinder helps educators like myself find, purchase, and share titles that make me rethink the stories I share with my students. ~Laura
Kait joined Scholastic in May of 2014 and is an Editor at Orchard Books, where she is building a list of picture books and graphic novels. She is excited to be working with talented debut authors and illustrators such as Aida Salazar, Molly Mendoza, Jon Lau, and Sarah Jung. Kait is a proud hapa (mixed-race Chinese) and founding member of People of Color in Publishing. She is a strong advocate for diverse representation on and beyond the page and is particularly passionate about editing humorous and heartfelt stories featuring kids of color.
I hope that the Diverse BookFinder will aid in putting diverse books into the hands of ALL readers, and will emphasize the need for diversity within diverse books. ~Kait
Cheryl is the editorial director at Lee & Low Books — the nation’s largest publisher of multicultural books for children and young adults — where she edits picture books, chapter books, and novels. She is also the author of the adult book The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults and three picture books. Prior to her work at Lee & Low, she spent sixteen years at Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. She is passionate about diverse books as vehicles for justice, equity, and education, as well as good art and fresh storytelling, because there are so, so many wonderful stories that still need to be told and heard. You can find her online at cherylklein.com and @chavelaque.
The Diverse BookFinder moves beyond the idea of “Who” is represented in diverse books to the What, When, and Where people are represented in them. In so doing, it highlights both How all children need to see multifaceted images of themselves and others to understand our rich and complex world, and Why we need to publish and purchase more diverse books to fill out those spaces. ~Cheryl
Kirin reviews children’s and young adult Islamic fiction books at www.islamicschoollibrarian.wordpress.com. The blog is a result of her love of literature and belief that fiction can be a powerful tool in empowering youth, shaping perceptions, breaking down stereotypes, and opening doors. Kirin graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in mass communications and a minor in sociology. She taught 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the Islamic School of Rhode Island before moving to Kansas City, MO, where she taught high school journalism and yearbook. In 2009, she returned to Utah where she helped run her children’s PTO at Iqra Academy, hosting literary activities and book fairs. In 2012, her dream was realized when she became the school librarian at Annoor Academy in Knoxville, TN. When she relocated to Alabama, Kirin found herself longing for the days as a librarian organizing book clubs, hosting daily story times, and running reading programs. She started hosting monthly story times at the local mosque for Muslim children, and coordinating interfaith story time activities with different faith groups. These experiences fueled her lifelong passion of keeping up to date with how Muslims are represented in children’s fiction, following Muslim authors, and getting her Muslim students and non-Muslim friends to use fiction to see themselves in different lights, and appreciate others in the process.
The Diverse BookFinder will hopefully become a standard resource for teachers creating lesson plans, for publishers looking at voids in their catalogue, and for parents trying to broaden their children’s options. ~Kirin
Marcela is the Library Director at the Lewiston Public Library in Maine. Her professional interests include community engagement, equity and inclusion within the library and information science field, and the importance of graphic novels and comic books within library collections. Before moving to Maine, Marcela lived and worked in Florida, and moved with her family to the United States from Brazil as a toddler. She earned her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds a BA from Cornell University.
The Diverse BookFinder gives us a wholly unique tool for rooting out any problematic trends in what stories we currently hold, and perhaps most importantly, gives us a roadmap for improving how we make decisions about adding or removing titles over time. ~Marcela
Deborah has been a cataloging librarian for more than sixteen years; her interest in creating and modifying controlled vocabularies includes a stint as the NACO Coordinator at The New York Public Library. Deborah joined the Diverse Book Finder project to help explore the limitations of traditional cataloging and publishing languages (like LCSH, LCSHAC and BISAC) in describing diversity in picture books. She helped standardize the vocabulary developed by other team members, determined how the vocabulary could interact with traditional book cataloging, and provided a framework for describing the vocabulary to other librarians. She earned her MLS from the University of Maryland at College Park, and presently serves as the Metadata and Resource Management Librarian at Marist College in New York.
I hope the Diverse BookFinder database/vocabulary can help better describe what's existent in the publishing world to help influence future directions of diversity in children's book publishing. ~Deborah
Our Interns & Research Assistants
Isabella is a second-year student from New York City currently planning to major in Politics. She loves reading children's books because they remind her of home.
As a Hispanic woman, growing up I always wished there was more representation of my culture in books. ~Isabella
Lisa is a graduating, 4th-year student from Oregon majoring in Psychology and minoring in Math and Education. Through her studies and work with children, she has seen the positive impact picture books have not only on children's cognitive development, but also on their social and emotional development.
I am excited to be working with a project helping to increase awareness about representation, so that all children can receive the many benefits of picture books. ~Lisa
Chenemi is a second-year student from Nigeria interested in Biotechnology and Geology. She has always been interested in children’s books and television.
I believe that education done right can be a positively empowering force. ~Chenemi