Diverse Books – we ALL need them!

clip art of mostly empty bookshelf (c) Machovka on Openclipartlibrary.org

bookcase by Machovka @ Openclipart.org

Imagine going to the grocery store and finding absolutely nothing that fits your nutritional needs or suits your tastebuds…

That’s what faces kids and young people who aren’t white, straight, and middle class when they search the shelves of their library, classroom, and bookstore.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center studied diversity in US children’s books recently, noting that fewer than 225 books of the 3,200 children’s books received by the CCBC in 2013 were written or illustrated by persons who were African/African-American, American Indian, Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific American, or Latino; just over 200 of these 3,200 books contained important characters from any of these four heritage groups. (Note: the US population is not 93% white).

And while stories based on non-traditional families and gay/lesbian/bisexual/transexual/questioning teens are becoming more common, just try finding the titles on The Rainbow Project Book List in a conservative community. (Note: people of all orientations and families of all types live everywhere)

When I was growing up, I never found books reflecting our Air Force family’s many moves; most military brats and other third culture kids will tell you the same. And how could “lived here my whole life” folks understand what our “make friends quick and be ready to leave any moment” lifestyle was like in those days before cheap long-distance calls and email?

Even if you are white or straight or middle class, ask yourself – does anyone want to read the same story in a different binding, over and over again? Isn’t exploring “being someone else” a big reason that we read anyway? Would people travel across the nation or around the world if they just wanted to see themselves duplicated in those surrounding them?

Diverse books open all of the world to us – other neighborhoods, other traditions, other worries and joys and everyday everything. I hope you’ve seen #weneeddiversebooks trending on Twitter lately and can tweet more reasons, adding to this important conversation.

This weekend, I’m doing the 48 Hour Book Challenge, reading diverse books and writing about them for 48 hours – you’ll see many of these books in future BooksYALove recommendations.

What books featuring diverse characters, families, and cultures have you enjoyed lately? Share in the comments, please!

**kmm

15 thoughts on “Diverse Books – we ALL need them!

  1. Thank you for your eloquent post! My diverse reading for today is including Bad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel, the now-famous The Great Greene Heist, Tankborn by Karen Sandler, and Legend by Marie Lu. My 9yo son is loving the Spirit Animals books and the first Eddie Red: Undercover mystery.

    • Hi, Katy (love your name!),

      Thanks for visiting! I loved Legend & have Tankborn series on my TBR-someday list!

      I’ll bet that your son would love the “What Reading Superhero Are You?” quick quiz at http://www.abookandahug.com – then he can search for books he’ll love from the 6,000+ librarian-written recommendations there (I’ve posted over 300) with lots of theme & keyword choices.

      Happy Blogathon!

      • I was going to remark that you have an exceptionally lovely name yourself… and ooh, thank you for the link! I’m sure my son will have fun with it, and I can pass it on to his teachers, too, who are always looking for more ways to hook kids up with good books.

  2. My diverse reading for this past year includes: Money Boy, by Paul Yee, Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler (on a scale of 1 to 5 I would give it a 6) and My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson (not LGBT but deals with a shameful chapter in our history). I should be proud that my local library (Binghamton, NY) is participating in displaying LGBTQ books for its YA readers in a prominent place.

    • Hi, Alana – glad we’re Blogathonning together again.

      I’ve heard of My Name is Not Easy, but the others are new to me = more for my TBR shelf!

      And kudos to Binghamton Library for giving all kids options to look at lives that are like/unlike their own.

  3. Nice overview! I’ve spent so much time lately thinking about #WNDB that I didn’t think to include one. And you’re right about military families– very few books out there. Have you read Operation Oleander? Good but sad.

    • When the librarians can select for the readers who are in their population without trumpets blaring to alert those who object to anything outside their narrow norms, all kinds of great books can be on the shelves! Three cheers for your small-town public library & librarians (now, in small-town *school* libraries, this is much, much tougher to do…)

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