Perhaps you’ve heard these words before when submitting a story? Or maybe, “this is a great story, but we already have a [insert community here] book.” What gets published, especially with larger publishing houses, is often driven by what the perceived market is for a story and less about the need and heart of it.
Recently a friend shared with me this video of Dr. Zetta Elliott, winner of Lee&Low’s New Voices Award for her book, Bird. In the video, which you can watch below, she talks about the lack of diversity in children’s books and the still shocking statistics that “only about 5% of the books published for kids annually are written by people of color.” She also discusses the inherent consequences of this for not just our children of color but also white children and the steps we each can take to begin changing these statistics. This video specifically talks about books by and about people of color, but the lack of diversity in children’s books also extends to LGBTQI communities. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any specific statistics related to LGBTQI children’s books only young adult books.
This lack of reflection is something I’ve talked about extensively. My post on the Reflection Press blog, Polka Dots, Self-Portraits and First Voice Multicultural Children’s Books, discusses how important it is for children to see themselves in books and how children of color are given very little opportunity with the current publishing industry statistics. These statistics are exactly why I am committed to The Heart of It Children’s Book collection.
As Dr. Elliott describes:
“when you’re a child and you don’t see a mirror when you turn on the tv, when you open a book, when you go to the movie theater, you start to feel invisible.”
“…if you don’t have a mirror it becomes difficult to see yourself in particular scenarios and on the flip side…it’s also damaging for the white children…if a child grows up seeing themselves over and over and over again, and they never see anyone else they almost begin to think of themselves as the center of the universe. We live in a VERY diverse society. If you want to learn how to communicate cross-culturally, if you want to be able to engage with people who are different from you, one of the first ways you might encounter a different person is in the pages of a book.“
Watch the full interview below: