By ADEDAYO RHUDAY PERKOVICH, age 10
The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign encourages kids to read books by and about people from different backgrounds. It was started in 2014 by authors Ellen Oh and Aisha Saaed who “wanted to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature.” Now leading a team of more than 20, they believe that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy and equality.
Kathleen T. Horning, director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, found that out of the 1,183 fiction books about people that the cooperative received in 2013, 1,059 were about white people, and only 124 (10.5 percent) were about people of color.
“Diverse” is an important word to this campaign. In this case, it means all kinds of people, including Asian, albino, African-American, Hispanic, Native American, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer) and disabled individuals. According to a report by William J. Hussar and Tabitha M. Bailey, it is estimated that by 2019, approximately 49 percent of students in U.S. public schools will be Latino, black, Asian/Pacific Islander or American Indian.
“Books transmit values,” wrote the late award-winning author Walter Dean Myers. “What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Are we promoting a sense of disconnect between lived reality and what is described on the page?”
This summer, the campaign posted book recommendations for kids to read during their vacation. Akata Witch, which has been compared to the Harry Potter series, features a main character who is albino and lives in Nigeria.
The campaign has become a nonprofit organization that will work with classrooms and host a diversity festival in 2016. #WeNeedDiverseBooks will help kids from all different backgrounds experience being recognized by the whole world.