We’ve written before on the need for greater diversity in the world of children’s literature. Specifically pinpointing the need for more authors and a greater willingness to publish the stories that do emerge. But on the flip-side, it’s also critical that the book peddlers — bookstore owners, librarians and the like — know how to ‘sell’ the books parents and to children. The NPR piece below explains why we should and how best to sell families on diverse books. The big takeaway shouldn’t be a surprise: sell these books like you’d sell anything else; lead with what’s most intriguing and make sure you’re giving the potential reader a chance to become interested. Simple enough. Make sure you listen to the story below.
Slam! Scorpions. Glory Field, Somewhere in the Darkness! Monster
Walter Dean Myers was one of my favorite writers growing up. In much the same way James Baldwin helped Myers to validate and define his existence, his words have supported countless young black boys and girls including myself.
In a New York Times Opinion piece entitled “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”, Myers expressed his concerns over the striking absence of black and brown faces in todays childrens and young adult literature.
In 1969, when I first entered the world of writing children’s literature, the field was nearly empty. Children of color were not represented, nor were children from the lower economic classes. Today, when about 40 percent of public school students nationwide are black and Latino, the disparity of representation is even more egregious. In the middle of the night I ask myself if anyone really cares.
Of course, Myers observation holds true even outside of the publishing world. For many children of color in the United States, everything from the video games they play, to the movies they watch, to the toys they play with are predominantly created and designed by and for a white audience.
This type of invisibility can have real consequences for kids of color in terms of self-esteem.