#WeNeedDiverseBooks is currently the #1 trending topic on Twitter and is taking over tumblr with user photos of people from all walks of life holding up handmade signs about why we need more diversity in literature — especially for kids.
It was created as a response to a national literary convention that put together a panel of “luminaries of children’s literature” and only included white male authors. The uproar demanded more diversity in books, in authors, and in the attention given to books by and about people of color, LGBTQ, and the otherly abled.
Top image: from our post on all the best children’s books of 2019
UPDATE, 2020: Since this post was first published in 2014, We Need Diverse Books is now officially a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and can be found at DiverseBooks.org. It’s described as “a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.”
Related: Meena Harris on the importance of diversity in children’s books, and raising kids who care
It’s easy to get involved online and spread the word: we are diverse, our children are diverse, we live in a diverse world, and we want to see more of it represented our books.
Here’s how to do it, and to find more of the books that reflect our increasingly diverse world.
1. Share on Twitter
Take a photo of you, your kids, your cat, your bookshelf– anything– with a sign that says “#WeNeedDiverseBooks because ____” and fill in the blank. Post the photo to the Twitter hashtag, or use the hashtag to talk about why you want to see more diversity in books. Click the hashtag to read countless testimonies from around the world that are moving and motivating.
via @delilahsdawson on Twitter
2. Share On Tumblr, Instagram, or your social channel of choice
Post your photos and messages with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Scrolling through the photos on the WeNeedDiverseBooks tumblog brought me to tears earlier.
I still remember reading The Mists of Avalon when I was a kid and recognizing a powerful woman who refused to play by the rules; I love that this same awakening is taking place all over the world as kids of all kinds find the books that speak to them.
3. Get involved on Facebook
Like the WeNeedDiverseBooks Facebook page [updated link] to see photos, get updates from around the world, and learn about how the campaign will continue after May 3.
4. Bring it Into the Real World
Talk to your school librarian or local bookseller about finding diverse books. See if they already have a bookshelf set aside for highlighting authors of color or single-parent families or kids living with disabilities. Talk about having a local author stop by for a reading, or bring your favorite book to story time. Let your kids see you reading books that feature heroes and heroines of all walks of life.
My son loves the cover of the book I’m reading right now, The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (avail from our affiliate Indiebound), and he said he wants to read a kids’ version of the story.
The big idea here is to not only show the publishing gatekeepers that we want books by all sorts of people about all sorts of people, but also to help those books find prominent placement in libraries and bookstores without being relegated to some “back section.”
Most of all, we need all kinds of kids be able to see themselves reflected in the books they read, not only to get them excited about reading, but to see themselves as heroes.