Diversity in Children's Books
In 2017 we live in a globalised world where our children are much more likely to be exposed to others from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. For this reason, it is now more important than ever for children to have an awareness of cultures other than their own, so that they grow up to become outward-looking balanced adults.
In the UK we have made progress in terms of producing reading material for children that highlights people from various backgrounds but a team of women in America have taken things further.
Mia Wenjen is one of the founders of Multicultural Children's Book Day which started in 2013. We have had the pleasure of getting to know her a bit better - here is our interview with her this month:
1. Tell us a bit about your background.
I started blogging at PragmaticMom.com on education, parenting and children's books seven years ago. About five years ago when I realized that the children's book publishing industry has not increased the number of diversity books in the last fourteen years, I started focusing on multicultural KidLit.
2. What is Multicultural Children's Book Day?
On January 27, 2018, we will be holding our fifth Multicultural Children's Book Day meant to shine a spotlight on diversity children's books. Last year, Multicultural Children's Book Day received more than 3.6 BILLION social media share impressions! (Particulars here.) We expect to exceed this number in 2018.
For our event:
2) We host a Twitter party using hashtag #ReadYourWorld from 9pm-10pm EST where we give away book bundles every six minutes. We discuss the state of children's book publishing, what kinds of books are missing, our favorite diversity authors, illustrators and books, and a whole lot more.
3) We give away more books in our ReadYourWorld Book Jam 2018 where we showcase 16 diversity authors and illustrators during the month of January on our blog in conjunction with Children's Book Council. Authors will share a diversity book list and give away copies of their books.
2. Where did it start?
We are in our 5th year. Valarie Budayr of the blog JumpIntoABook.com came up with the idea. She, too, was shocked that the number of diversity books for kids had not increased over the last fourteen years. She called me and proposed a day to share great multicultural books for kids to a wide audience of parents, librarians, teachers, and KidLit lovers.
3. Why did you start it?
We think it's crucial for kids to see themselves in books across all genres of children's literature. We felt the lack of growth in diversity books might be the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Publishers viewed the audience of a POC book as solely that demographic, therefore they didn't put a lot of weight behind marketing the book, resulting in low sales. We thought if we shined a light on the best diversity books for kids, it would help increase demand for them.
4. What has the response to it been?
Our event last year was on a Friday night so we didn't think we would get much participation. Also, Trump's Muslim Ban had just affected passengers at the airport in NYC. We ended up trending #2 on Twitter, ahead of #MuslimBan which was #3. We had 1900 tweets in that hour and 3.6 BILLION social media share impressions over three days (day before, day of, and day after our event).
5. What are your long term ambitions for MCBD?
6. How do you think MCBD will improve the lives of children?
There are major cutbacks in education across the board and this affects school libraries. Imagine if you live in a place where there isn't any kind of diversity in your community. Reading develops empathy and understanding for those who are different from what we are used to. It opens all kinds of doors and windows. It validates as a mirror too.
7. How can anyone find out more information about MCBD?
8. Anything else you'd like to add?
We need this in the UK!