You hear about it so often these days that you just might wonder: How diverse is children's literature, really? The numbers have been improving slowly, but they remain far from true representation. Now, a new, shareable infographic has the numbers you need to talk about diversity in kidlit, and — admittedly — the outlook is pretty grim.
|Adek Berry (AFP Getty Images)|
Several years ago, children's book illustrator Tina Kügler created a widely circulated infographic, "Diversity in Children's Books 2012," which used then-current data from the CCBC. At the time, 93 percent of children's books were about white or non-human characters*.
Although the numbers have changed in the years since Kügler first published her illustration, it has remained in use. In response to St. Catherine University professor Sarah Park Dahlen's request for information on an updated version, a chain reaction led to illustrator David Huyck's involvement. Huyck created a new infographic on diversity in children's literature, and released it under a Creative Commons license.
No wonder Marley Dias got tired of reading about white boys and dogs.
We need diverse books, so that children grow up seeing themselves reflected in the stories they read. White children have no problem locating books about people who look like them, but children of color do not have that luxury. Although 37 percent of people in the U.S. are not white, only 10 percent of children's books published since 1994 "contain[ed] multicultural content," according to Lee & Low Books.
Although children's book publishing appears to be slowly growing more diverse, it remains to be seen whether the trend toward inclusive content will continue in this matter. Gains in representation can be lost just as quickly as they were made, as this year's Man Booker Prize shortlist shows.
So buy diverse books. Talk to your local librarian about creating a more inclusive selection. Pursue the stories of people from marginalized communities, and support the storytellers. Do your part, and we can make sure every kid has a representative bookshelf.
*The exact percentage of books about non-human characters is not accounted for on Kügler's infographic, but it is a distinct category on David Huyck's image.
Image: David Huyck/Dropbox