The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators reported in 2010 that more than 90 percent of children’s and young adult books published in the U.S. featured white protagonists. Just two years later, the U.S. Census Bureau said white births were no longer the majority in the U.S.
Talk about a disconnect.
No wonder the Children’s Book Council’s Diversity Committee was formed to increase and cultivate diverse voices and experiences in children’s literature. The genre, like every other form of the arts, should represent society. To that end, the committee encourages diversity of race, gender, geographical origin, sexual orientation, and class. It’s not enough to have authors and illustrators who are diverse. There also needs to be a diverse range of artists working throughout the industry.
It makes sense. As society becomes more diverse so should its literature. But authors and illustrators encounter barriers to publication. The CBC Diversity Committee reports there simply aren’t enough diverse people in the right places to move projects forward. Books featuring diverse characters are often considered difficult to sell, meanwhile aspiring and established authors have an eye on their careers and don’t want anyone thinking they can write or illustrate only one kind of book. Countless others fear they will misrepresent culture or history in their work. If that weren’t enough, editors are concerned reviewers will more harshly criticize books with diverse characters.
Visit the CBC Diversity Committee web site and learn more about the committee and its goals. I heard about the site while I was at the Highlights Foundation in April, and it’s packed with information for veterans and aspiring authors like me. Be sure to check out the It’s complicated blog series. It’s a must-read for writers, illustrators, and parents. The CBC Diversity Bookshelf is in the left rail. Powered by Goodreads, it is a wonderful resource for parents. It provides a list of books by CBC member publishers that parents may or may not have seen at the local library or big box book store. Check it out. When you do, tell them Honeysmoke sent you.