In November 2018, I had the honor of presenting a talk at the SCBWI NJ Fall Crafting conference entitled, Diversity in Children’s Literature.
I love gathering insight across different disciplines. I learned this approach from medicine where multidisciplinary patient care and research is regarded to be among the most powerful. Being a writer and a physician and a researcher makes me somewhat multidisciplinary myself! So for this talk, I read the work of fellow authors as well as work from editors, librarians, and educators from different fields.
The resounding message across all disciplines is that diversity in children’s literature is important. And not just racial/ethnic diversity–all types including gender/sexuality, ability, neurodiversity, illness, class, and more. It is important for children to be able to see themselves in books so they too can imagine overcoming the impossible and reaching for the stars. It is important for readers to see characters who are different from them so they can build empathy. And it is important that literature not perpetuate harmful stereotypes. How to do all this starts first with good writing and creating characters who are fully realized, nuanced and HUMAN, no matter their race, class, sexuality, religion, and ability. And there is work involved. You must do your research, at times, to accomplish this.
Like most, I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. Below is a list of the on-line resources I used while creating my talk. If you are a writer or a reader interested in diversity in children’s literature, these sites may be of benefit to you. The first two are checklists that educators use to assess books for inclusion. The rest are in no particular order! Remember, not all of these resources are meant for writers, but I saw value in them so maybe you will too.
10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books For Racism and Sexism
Children’s Literature that Includes Characters with Disabilities or Illnesses
ADL’s Anti-Bias Education: Checklist for Assessing Children's Literature
Other Helpful Websites:
Milestones for Diversity in Children’s Literature and Library Services
Disability in Kidlit
DiversifYA, In your YA, diversifying your stories
Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s and Young Adult Books by Cynthia Leitich Smith (note: Cynthia has a host of different articles about this topic on her website as well as book recommendations)
Avoiding LGBTQ Stereotypes by Malinda Lo
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, PhD
Transracial Writing for the Sincere by Nisi Shawl for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Writing Race: A Checklist for Writers by Mitali Perkins
We Need Diverse Books: A Guide to Spotting and Growing Past Stereotypes by Ellen Oh
We Need Diverse Books: Novels that Get Representation Right by Aisha Saeed
Children's Literature That Includes Characters With Disabilities or Illnesses by Joan K. Blaska, PhD
Diversity in Children’s Literature: Check Your Blind Spot by Jennie McDonald for the Center for the Collaborative Classroom
Cooperative Children’s Book center’s 2017 Statistics on LGBTQ+ Literature for Children & Teens
We Need Diverse Books: Why Diversity Matters for Everyone by Marieke Nijkamp
We Need Diverse Books: How to Prepare to Write a Diverse Book by I.W. Gregorio
Representation Matters: A Literary Call To Arms by K. Tempest Bradford for Lit Reactor
The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s Books by Jenessa Flores Parker from JumpStart, a program for early childhood education
Coloring between the lines: reflections on race, culture and children’s book a Blog by Anne Sibley O’Brien
Why children’s books that teach diversity are more important than ever by BJ Epstein for The Conversation
7 Casually Racist Things That White Authors Do by Mya Nunnally for Book Riot
Even Babies Discriminate: A Nutureshock Excerpt By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman for Newsweek
Picture Books: An Open Book to Talk about Race by Natalie Bernstein, Elementary Librarian
The danger of a single story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for TED talks
Kids Tell Us: “Why I Read” by Scholastic
Students Learn a Powerful Lesson About Privilege by BuzzFeed Video