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Racial diversity in children’s books is growing, but slowly

CHICAGO (AP) – In the world of children’s books, villagers can protect their water from a black snake, dark skin is as beautiful as the night sky, and a little girl’s two blows can make her feel like she’s swimming in the clouds. ,

Children see more of these readings in the books they read as the authors are more motivated to reflect the diversity around them. The racial diversity of children’s books has been observed since 2014, traversing the 25-year-old plateau, said Kathleen T., director of the Children’s Book Cooperative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Horning:

But despite the achievements, progress has been slow. In 2020, children’s books written by color authors increased by 3% to 26.8% compared to 2019. Children’s books written about different racial characters or subjects, however, increased by only 1% և 30%, according to preliminary data provided by the Associated Press. By CCBC, which tracks children’s book submission statistics since 1985.

At the same time, books about Latin characters decreased slightly from 6.3% to 6.2% in 2020, while the number of books about both natives and natives remained unchanged. Books about both blacks and Asians have seen small but steady growth.

Horning notes that it can take years to write, illustrate and publish a children’s book, so what progress has been made in 2020 may not be obvious until 2022 or 2023.

Still, Horning would like to see more people of color write about their communities.

“We want people to feel empowered to tell their own stories,” he said.

“We need a variety of books,” said Ellen Oh, CEO of a nonprofit nonprofit, noting that one of the barriers to diversity in children’s books in the publishing industry is the myth that books about people of color are not for sale.

“Because of this myth, the publisher never makes these books available,” Oh said.

In fact, books written by people of color are included in the New York Times bestseller list, including Matthew A. Cherry’s “Love of Hair”, Lupita Nyong’o’s “Sulwe” և “We Are Water Defenders” by Carol Lindstrom.

When custodian Floyd was killed in police custody last year, Brittany Smith, a kindergarten teacher in New Jersey, wanted to help students and teachers understand what had happened, so she made a list of anti-Semitic books for children.

Shortly afterwards, the list went viral on Twitter, and most of the books were sold in major bookstores. Teachers and school districts included them in curricula and libraries.

Smith said finding a variety of books for his students requires extra digging, and he sometimes feels limited in his choices. He hopes that 2020 will change that.

“Last year showed the need and desire for these books,” he said. “I hope it does not stop.”

Continuing it will mainly fall on the shoulders of the publishing industry, which itself lacks diversity. It includes publicists, marketing teams, agents, editors, pawnbrokers, as well as teachers and librarians who get books into the hands of children. A basic diversity study by Lee & Low Books, an independent publisher of child diversity that focuses on diversity, found that 76% of the publishing industry is white. Diversity was mostly lacking on the editorial side, where 85% of the staff were white.

Several local efforts are being made to overcome these barriers. For example, We need Divers Books offers grants to marginalized writers, illustrators, booksellers, book prizes, mentorships, children’s books in schools, scholarship and internship programs to help young people of color enter the publishing industry. Most recently, it partnered with Penguin Random House to establish the CB Creators Foundation in 2021 to support CB writers and illustrators.

Oh also advises supporting independent publishers by focusing on diversity and hiring culturally sensitive readers to ensure appropriate representation. Another way is for major publishers to create printers that focus on variety. HarperCollins, for example, recently launched Heartdrum, a trademark of Native Americans.

Such efforts are possible, both within major publishers and through major organizations, says Nina Cruz, illustrator of The Girl Like Me.

“When you see how you are reflected in the pages of a book, you are part of the conversation, part of the story. You are not ignored. It gives you a sense of belonging in the world you are in, ”Cruz said. “Every child deserves it.”

The consequences of not seeing oneself in the characters read to them by children can be profound.

Angela oy oy, 2020 The author of “Sun is the Color of the Rainbow” says that when people of color agree to see only whites who deserve to be in the books, they can begin to intellectualize it, giving them even more hope of being comfortable representing their own communities. When her own daughter wrote, oy who said that she paints white people, not characters like her.

“It breaks my heart,” he said. “I want my child to see that he deserves to be in the stories he reads and writes.”

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Fernando is a member of the Associated Press’ Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/christinetfern.

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