This past year, the We Need Diverse Books campaign has been highlighting the paucity of diverse characters in children’s books in this, the so-called age of post-racial America. One of The OpEd Project’s fellows at University of Texas at Austin, Domino Perez, wrote about this recently at the Washington Post:
In 2012, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed 3,600 children’s books. Only 3 percent were about African-Americans. Asian and Pacific Americans were featured in 2 percent, followed by Latinos with less than 2 percent, and American Indians at less than 1 percent.
This is a problem. As Noah Berlantsky wrote in the Atlantic: ‘Half of all 5-year-olds in the country belong to a racial or ethnic minority, yet white kids continue to hold center stage in most children’s books and young-adult fiction. As a result, large numbers of kids don’t see themselves reflected in the books they read, and non-white, or non-heterosexual, or even non-male children end up learning that they are marginal, or secondary, in their society.’
This issue speaks to the reason why we’re here, to increase the range of voices heard in the world, not just with op-eds but in stories, in talks, in our way of being and holding our place where we stand. This also speaks to why we launched our Youth Narrating our World (YNOW) initiative, now in year two, which recently met on the Saturday after we convened our UT Austin fellows.
To my YNOW mentees, I say: this is also a killer news hook. I encourage you to take this and share your experiences in trying to find yourself in the stories that shape your worlds.