Monday, November 4, 2013

Lack of Diversity in Children's Literature


As I was thinking about my first blog entry for the month of November, two things happened simultaneously. First, during my book club meeting, the conversation quickly revealed that members felt that they were not represented in the literature that we were discussing. As such, they felt that the articles we had amassed on our topic of discussion was not authentic.  Secondly, a book club member asked for children’s books suggestions for her young niece who happened to be African American. Although ShelfLives, my book club which was formed in early 2002 with ten friends, was meeting to discuss our latest book and although we started to discuss the novel, the conversation quickly turned into the lack of diversity in children’s’ literature.

You see for us, a group of ten professionals from different cultures, it has been something that has also come up when we discussed our own childhood. We never saw ourselves or our families in the books we read as children. This is also something that comes to mind when I am ordering books for the library at my school. I want the students to come to the library and choose from books that reflect true diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation and social class.

Lack of diversity in children’s literature is a real problem that must not be ignored. In a study done last year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed thousands of kids' books, and found that only 3.3 percent were about African-Americans, 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans, 1.5 percent were about Latinos and only 0.6 percent were about American Indians.[1]  To truly foster a love of reading and to cultivate connections, children need to see their stories and realities reflected in the books they read. 

So, this is my question to my fellow HVLA members; how can we solve this problem? What are we to do for there to be more books with varied content so that children can experience the richness of each other’s stories?

[1] The stories for all project: First ever market solution to the lack of diversity in kids' books. (2013, Jun 13). PR Newswire. Retrieved from


  1. Thanks for the great post! I just recently came across the CBC Diversity page, which are publishers working to increase diversity. There are some good resources there and ways to get involved.

    1. After reading this article in the Horn Book by Christopher Myers, it made me want to read aloud Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham next to my fifth graders.

      Patricia Aakre
      Brearley School

  2. Christina KarvounisNovember 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Thank you for this important post. I just came back from AASL (American Association of School Librarians) in Hartford, CT and attended a workshop on multicultural literature hosted by authors Kelly Starling Lyons and Gwendolyn Hooks. In this presentation, they shared that just 10% of books published over the last decade were authored by people of color.

    Check out the Brown Bookshelf for more resources, as well.

    Christina Karvounis
    Brooklyn Friends School