Once Upon a TimeBy Rosa Conrad

Thousands of tweets exist under the social movement and Internet campaign #WeNeedDiverseBooks calling for books, books, and more books. Not just any books, but specifically books for children that are diverse. We all have been to Barnes & Noble, public libraries, and stores and have seen books for children. The classics, fairy-tales, legends, comics, and other popular genres have filled our homes and have shared story time with our children. But have we ever stopped to think that there is little selection of books that show people of color, people with special needs, people from different cultures, religions, languages, and gender diversity? Some people did take notice and addressed this issue by recognizing a need to have more children’s books available addressing the diversity around us. A grassroots movement began #WeNeedDiverseBooks, recognizing that our selection of literature for children lacks representation of our diversity.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign brings awareness to this need for diversity in children’s literature. Here are some of the tweets that came about from the movement:

@gildedspine: #WeNeedDiverseBooks because being a POC shouldn’t put me lower on the believability scale than a FAERIE or a DRAGON.

@isshegay: We need diverse books because no little kid ever said “I want a box of 64 white crayons!”

@Miranda_Paul: #WeNeedDiverseBooks ‘Kids might not judge a book by its cover, but they might judge themselves by books’ covers.’

@Qlovi: #WeNeedDiverseBooks Because no one should say ‘when I was a kid, I didn’t know someone like me could do that’

FairytalesThese narratives put forth a call to action to publishing companies, authors, and libraries to make books available that cover the wide range of diversity not being offered, so that all children can discover themselves in books. As the tweets demonstrate, there has been a widespread Internet blast from websites promoting this much-needed call for diversity in children’s literature. Websites from MTV to radio stations to blogs to the the comics industry to news sites such as the Huffington Post have brought attention to what is happening in this #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. I see the need to offer a wide variety of literature. We need books that offer children of all ages stories and subject matters that can help them understand the world they live in.

Teen BooksSome may argue that some of the topics (e.g., sexuality, bullying, physical and mental illnesses, etc.) called to be included in children’s books should be addressed at home by parents or family members, but the reality is that children and teens oftentimes turn to books for answers.  Books provide a way for them to seek out answers and to be informed independently. This may be the only way some of them become more aware of what is happening to them and around them, and that they are not alone.

Books are not just about fairytales anymore. They are about bringing people and communities together. They take readers into worlds that are unfamiliar to them, and they also speak their language and introduce commonalities with other children who may not look like them but share the same concerns. Books comfort, inform, and raise imagination for children. It is up to us to expand the literature for our children. They will become our leaders of tomorrow and with the knowledge of the diversity among them, they have a chance to break social barriers and embrace the differences within our communities.

Children's literature