Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.
Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:
On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.
For the visual part of the campaign:
- Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.
- The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.
- However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to email@example.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.
- Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.
- The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.
- The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.
On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.
On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!
We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.
Bravo to Ellen for starting this initiative! I am mindful of the many subtle messages books can deliver to children, especially so since adopting my daughter from Vietnam when she was three months old (she is now 16). Even the preschool set needs stories that that support and affirm diversity and positive self-image from a very early age. I was extremely gratified at the way Anna Brown conceived three different animal families (in a natural palette featuring gray, russet, and dark brown) to illustrate my most recent picture book, LOVE IS REAL (HarperCollins,2014). The book does not reinforce any particular family, racial, or ethnic configuration or dynamic. The text and the beautifully drawn families of animals show how “little things” every day make a difference, and how different families spread love within their own unit and beyond.
Ellen’s initiative has been thoughtfully planned to raise awareness at key access points to literature—bookstores and libraries—and to help stock shelves with literature that offers more opportunities for readers to “see themselves” in stories they read, from preschool to YA. My hope is that Ellen’s efforts will snowball—so that more readers who “see themselves” will someday create their own stories that we can find on the shelves alongside ours.
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