There’s a huge campaign right now called We Need Diverse Books. If you’re a social media geek where literature is concerned, I’m sure you’ve noticed #weneeddiversebooks as you scroll through your timeline. The campaign appealed to me because I’m a big advocate of the second law of library science: every reader his or her book. There’s no better way to get a child motivated about reading than to provide him or her with a book they can connect with. And for some, this means providing them with books where the characters “look like” them.
What is diverse? Does diverse mean just providing books with black characters or written by black authors? Absolutely not! There are so many types of books that can be considered diverse. I think it’s important we have books that relate to minorities and people of color, religion, disabilities, gender identity and LGBTQ. Books that incorporate these various themes provide opportunities for bibliotherapy, learning, and sensitivity. If you aren’t familiar with bibliotherapy, it’s a form of therapy in which books are used to help individuals through personal, emotional problems. Providing access to and promoting diverse books offer readers a look into the lives of others as well as a chance to understand cultures and lifestyles in an effort to become sensitive to them.
As you can see in this infographic, there’s a lack of diverse books in comparison to the immense number of books published annually.
So, do we need diverse books? Of course! But first, let’s start with the ones we already have. Recently, I’ve read of instances where educators have endured backlash (for different reasons) for their use of diverse books in the classroom during storytimes. As an individual who is open-minded about reading and tries to encourage that in the students I serve, this bothers me for two reasons. One, because of the closed-minded persons who frown upon celebrating diversity. And two, because of the fear of retribution created in educators because of such headlines. So, my challenge to educators, parents, and others who influence our children and youth is for you to not only encourage a love of reading, but also expose them to the many different types of people, cultures, and lifestyles that make up our diverse country. By exposing them, we inform them; in return, creating a society of open-minded, sensitive, and empathic citizens. Earlier this year, I accepted the We Need Diverse Books challenge to read 15 diverse books this year. To date, I’ve read 21 and am still reading. Will you take the challenge? If you need a place to start, visit your local library and check out these diverse titles.
Written by Rukhsana Khan
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Published by Viking, 2010
40 Pages ~ Ages 5-8
What makes it diverse? Arab American
Written by Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015
40 Pages ~ Ages 5-7
What makes it diverse? African-American
Written & illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
40 Pages ~ Ages 5-9
What makes it diverse? Italian American