Earlier this year, BookCon caused an uproar when their list of children’s book authors were all white—except for one grumpy cat. Pretty soon, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag went viral on Twitter, with authors and readers giving their reasons why there should be more diverse characters (and authors) in kid lit.
Despite the fact there are tons of really great kids’ books out there, I realize on an almost-daily basis that my mixed-race daughters don’t see a lot of characters like themselves. And it’s not just about them having characters they can identify with, because—let’s face it—I’ve seen them identify with a purple unicorn. But seeing your own culture and experiences reflected in a story gives it a resonance that other stories may not have.
The flip side, of course, is that diverse books aren’t just for the minorities. When #WeNeedDiverseBooks went viral, I did see backlash from people who argued that, for instance, white boys don’t need to read about girls or people of color. Books are one of the best ways to help us experience something that we’re otherwise not exposed to in our real lives, whether that’s traveling in the distant future, living in a world of magic, or simply (maybe not-so-simply) being part of a different culture. Stories help us get into someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, and in some sense it’s the majority that needs diverse books the most.
We Need Diverse Books is now on Indiegogo, raising funds to get more diverse books to kids. They’re working with An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation to get books and authors into needy schools, creating an award and grant program to recognize excellent books, and even planning a Kidlit Diversity Festival (to be held in DC in 2016).
They’re over a quarter of their funding goal now, with a month left to go, and every bit counts. If you love kids and books, and you support the idea of diversity in what kids are reading, check out the campaign and consider backing it!
Note that the We Need Diverse Books campaign uses “flexible funding,” which means the money is collected as soon as you pledge whether the campaign hits its overall goal or not.