Encouraging Diversity in Children’s Books

This post was written by Programs Intern, Connor Richter.

In May, the Cooperative Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) at the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, published the 2018 statistics on diversity in American children’s books. Sarah Park Dahlen, an associate professor in the Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at St. Catherine University in Minnesota and illustrator David Huyck translated the information into a helpful infographic. It shows the percentage of books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds (taken from a survey of 3,134 books).

Source: Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/

The infographic is an update from the 2015 edition of the same study. Onsarahpark.com the author and illustrator note that for 2018 they say:

“Children’s literature continues to misrepresent underrepresented communities, and we wanted this infographic to show not just the low quantity of existing literature, but also the inaccuracy and uneven quality of some of those books.” 

Sarah Park Dahlen

Park and Huyck were inspired to make these infographics to update the one Tina Kügler had done in 2012, seen below.

Our Market-Driven Solution

When the 2012 infographic came out and revealed the alarming lack of representation, First Book knew something had to be done. That’s why in 2013 they launched The Stories for All ProjectTM. They reached out to the publishing industry with the intention to purchase books that featured underrepresented groups in children’s literature: books that would reflect the experiences of the children they serve.

We are proud to continue this project in Canada. We want to show publishers that there is a demand for this content and to encourage them to produce more, which will initiate systemic change.

Since 2012, alongside First Book (US), First Book Canada has continued to fill the First Book Canada Marketplace with quality titles both by and about marginalized groups, which are now some of our best sellers. This is our way of promoting what we believe is a more inclusive publishing world.

Diverse representation in children’s literature has increased since 2012. Yet, there is still a grossly disproportionate number of stories focusing on the experience of white characters. These statistics also make us wonder about the data needed for Canadian children’s literature. Is Canada publishing enough diverse children’s literature?   

We need diverse representation in media early on, in children’s books, so that kids of all cultures and races see their experiences acknowledged and validated. All children deserve to see themselves reflected in the books available to them. This way, they can develop a love for reading that comes from feeling seen, and this love of reading can propel them to confidence and success in life. That’s why First Book Canada is committed to providing high-quality, diverse books to children throughout Canada.

Visit The Stories For All ProjectTM on the First Book Canada Marketplace to see how we’re creating a space that prioritizes stories reflecting a variety of cultures and lived experiences.