Diversity

Last year we saw much attention in the media to the lack of diversity in children’s books in the USA.  A new group We Need Diverse Books grew as it became more obvious that such a small number of character/authors/illustrators of color were able to get published.

Is it a significant issue?  Are we sorely lacking in culturally authentic books?  If so how do we go about ensuring that our children are able to see themselves depicted in the literature they encounter?

http://weneeddiversebooks.org/

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14 Responses to “Diversity”


  1. 1 Danielle Pedri July 20, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    I think this is an issue but at the same time I don’t know how we start solving the problem when editors and publishers are the ones standing in the way. That may sound a bit harsh but it’s difficult when we have great writers who can write culturally authentic books but because someone else already wrote something similar they cannot publish it or have any use for it. I think we need to start looking at the publishers and ask them what are you going to do to have more culturally rich books and how are you going to help solve this problem that has been present for 18 years. We are sorely lacking and it shows in the statistics on WNDB. It says in June 2013 only 10% of books published were multicultural. It also states that this gap has been the same since 1994. I find that to be very upsetting. I think we have to start incorporating more culturally authentic books into the classroom. I noticed on the WNDB website that they said they will be publishing an anthology by Crown Books and it will be available January 2017 and their hopes are it can be made available to Title I schools. The anthology will feature a group of authors with diverse voices. I think something like this that teachers can get their hands on and have access to would be perfect for the classroom. Students can gain a different perspective of different cultures and those students who feel they have never related to a text or character before may finally get that chance. Maybe then they will be inspired to write their own culturally diverse story or at least continue to be more motivated to read. We as teachers and those that decide on the books that go into a classroom need to provide more books that student can see themselves in, books that help them understand the world around them, books that help them understand different cultures, and books that can provide experiences to learn from.

    • 2 Kimberly Eder July 21, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Danielle,

      I totally agree with you that this is a problem and that the statistics are

      alarming. As a teacher I think it is our role to do everything in our power to

      have our libraries filled with the culturally authentic books that are currently

      available so our students have an opportunity to encounter the literature

      that is available.

    • 3 Robert Sorrells July 22, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      While I agree that a big portion of the problem is the publishers, I feel that if we want a change then we need to make it happen. The publishers only publish books they think will sell. So, what does that say about us as readers if the publishers only print books that are focused on white people in America? We need to let the publishers know that we as a society want more diversity in our literature.

      • 4 Kimberly Eder July 23, 2015 at 12:23 pm

        Robert,

        That is an excellent point and I agree as readers we have to start letting

        the publishers know that we want more diversity in our books. I guess the

        question would be how do we go about letting them know we want more

        diversity in our books? This might be an interesting topic to actually start

        discussing with our students; especially middle and high school students. I

        am sure they would have lots of ideas on the subject.

      • 5 Stephanie Dunnock July 31, 2015 at 2:16 pm

        What a good point. Unfortunately I think there is such a set mindset on buying what it popular and familiar that I don’t think the large majority of our country wants to read diverse books unless it became a trend. I think this movement is one that would have to start with schools working with publishers to help start the trend in elementary school.

      • 6 William Thompson November 24, 2015 at 8:09 pm

        I like the point you made here, the publishers are going to produce what is best for business. So if the public is buying books that focuses on white Americans, then the publishing companies are going to keep publishing books focused on white Americans, because that is making them money. If people really want to have a change and more diversity, then people are going to have to let it be known, by buying more books that focus more on diversity.

    • 7 Stefanie Moscati May 2, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      I agree that we have issues with publishers only publishing books that will “sell”; however, as a comment mentioned earlier, that truly has something to say about us as readers. If we choose to buy the culturally diverse books and read the culturally diverse books, then they will be sold. I was able to hear Carole Weatherford (author of Moses) speak about why we need diverse books, and her points were extremely valid, and things I think about everyday. For example, when books are culturally diverse, students are able to “see themselves” in the book because the book becomes a mirror. We also need diverse books to help children see that big dreams are possible and achievable. It is up to teachers to use diverse books in the classroom in order for children to build sympathy, see the world from a different perspective, see themselves, and provide hope for big dreams.

  2. 8 Kimberly Eder July 21, 2015 at 11:36 am

    I believe that the lack of culturally diverse books is a problem not only for our

    children; but also for society. The statistics that we discussed in class are

    very alarming to me as a parent and a teacher. Just watching and hearing

    what is happening all over our world today shows that we don’t understand

    and/or tolerate each others cultures. The more we read and learn about

    others the better opportunity we have to understand about our own culture

    and other cultures, the better understanding we can gain about each other.

    As far as how do we ensure that more of these diverse books are seen by

    our students is the hard question. We as teachers, parents and society have

    to see this important enough to start putting pressure on the editors and

    publishers asking for books the depict authetically diverse characters and

    cultures. As a teacher I think we need to dig deeper into finding the culturally

    authentic books that are available to share with our students.

    • 9 Danielle Pedri July 21, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      Kimberly, I agree we need to start pressuring the editors and publishers. This is not okay and maybe if they start hearing our voices then maybe things can start to change.

    • 10 Robert Sorrells July 22, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      I totally agree that we are the ones that need to push for culturally diverse books to be printed. As I have said in my other posts on this topic, there needs to be a change in our idea of literature as a society. If we want our children to be respectful of other cultures and open to new things, well that has to start with what we show our children. If we only show one point of view, one way of thinking, then our children will be rigid in their thinking and very narrow minded.

  3. 11 Robert Sorrells July 21, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    I believe that the lack of culturally authentic books is a real issue within our county. The fact that we call ourselves a melting pot, or a salad bowl, of culture and that our own Statue of Liberty says that all are welcomed is baffling considering how media in general focuses mainly on one race. If what Professor Bond had said was true, that publishing companies pick one author of a minority and believe that their quota is filled, it truly is sad. What kind of message are we sending the children of our country when we only depict one way of living? Are we saying that their culture was not as important? I believe that everyone needs to be able to see themselves within a book. To answer how to fix this problem, I believe that it would take a country wide movement similar to what was done in Ireland, which we spoke about in class. It is inspiring to know that a country came together and decided that they wanted to change. I believe that is what we would need to fix this problem. We would need our country, or enough of it, to come together and say that this is something that we want to happen.

    • 12 Danielle Pedri July 21, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Robert, I agree with you. We definitely need to take a page from Ireland. It has to be a country wide decision or it will not work. It will be interesting to see if these statistics stay the same or if the publishers will start to change.

    • 13 Stephanie Dunnock July 31, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      I think teachers and school districts need to keep looking for other resources from other countries. If out publishers aren’t going to work hard to have diverse authors selling books we should ourselves reach out and get other books. Yes language could be a barrier, however we would still be getting an authentic look at literature if we bought directly from places around the world.

  4. 14 Stephanie Dunnock July 21, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    I believe we certainly need more books that are culturally authentic in our ever growing diverse societies. My school, South Dorchester School Pre-K – 8, was once a school that only had white students by nature of the community. The community now has much more diversity than it once had. Other schools in Dorchester County have a high percentage of African American students but do not have very many students of other races and ethnic backgrounds. Whether students are exposed to diversity, there is a lack of diversity, or there are changes in the population at the school, understanding other cultures has to be a priority in schools. Students need avenues to learn about other societies and cultures. Books are a great way to expose our students to these differences. It is not okay that publishers Americanize books to the extent where meaning is lost and authentic cultural lessons no longer present themselves. Not only will learning about different cultures help our own societies, many of the futures’ of our students will depend on working with people globally. We as Americans are doing our students a disservice if we do not find a way to expose them to the diverse world we live in.
    In addition, teachers need books that all children can relate to within their own countries and communities. If that means bringing in more international books and if there are not enough teachers need to be asking for more from publishers and editing companies. If teachers come together and ask for more diverse and culturally authentic books than perhaps there would be more produced. I also believe teachers should be reading more diverse books too so they can also be comfortable with the content and diversity and start to model for students what it means to acknowledge differences of others.


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