Picture This: Reflecting Diversity in Children’s Book Publishing

At the 2016 ALA Annual Conference, author Tameka Fryer Brown presented the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s (CCBC) multicultural publishing statistics during the panel “Celebrating Diversity: The Brown Bookshelf Salutes Great Books for Kids.” She displayed Tina Kügler’s oft-cited 2012 infographic, with the comment that even though the numbers are now 4 years old, the image communicated inequity in publishing so well that she would use it at every opportunity.

Just before ALA Annual, St. Catherine University MLIS Program assistant professor Sarah Park Dahlen had posted to Facebook asking if anyone knew of an updated illustration, but Kügler’s was the only one anyone knew about. Friends said they would be happy to support an illustrator to create an update. Author/teacher Molly Beth Griffin saw Sarah’s post and queried her Twin Cities Picture Book Salon to see if anyone would be interested; David Huyck (pronounced “hike”) responded, and a project was born.

The Minnesota children’s literature community is a vibrant group. Although it is comprised mainly of white authors, illustrators, and editors, many are working to promote anti-biased and anti-racist children’s literature, support writers and artists from underrepresented communities, and remove barriers to inclusivity. In the spirit of this collaborative ethic and allyship, for the past couple months, David, Sarah, and Molly have been working together to produce an illustration that communicates updated and more detailed CCBC data. Emails have been flying back and forth – Sarah sent David a few links (including Debbie Reese’s storify of K.T. Horning’s SLJ webinar), David dug deeper and sent back questions and sketches, Molly and Sarah offered feedback, and Sarah consulted K.T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Edith Campbell, and Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and round and round the conversation went, until…

diversityinchildrensbooks2015_f

Illustration ©2016 David Huyck, in consultation with Sarah Park Dahlen and Molly Beth Griffin

Link to JPG & PDF files2015 Diversity in Children’s Books – Dropbox Folder

Full citation: Huyck, David, Sarah Park Dahlen, Molly Beth Griffin. (2016 September 14). Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 infographic. sarahpark.com blog. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/picture-this-reflecting-diversity-in-childrens-book-publishing/
Statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp
Released for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license
* Please email David to inquire about printing this infographic in a book.

David created this with a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license so that Tameka, Sarah, and others working toward equity in children’s literature publishing may freely use it. We hope that this infographic, along with Lee & Low’s Diversity Gap blog posts, Debbie Reese’s blog American Indians in Children’s Literature, Edith Campbell and Zetta Elliott’s blogs, We Need Diverse Books, Reading While White, and other diversity initiatives, can help push forward important conversations and lead to real change in children’s literature publishing.

We thank our many friends who generously donated to compensate David for his work, and we thank David for his thoughtful and creative image.

David Huyck, Illustrator
davidhuyck.com/
@huyckd

Sarah Park Dahlen, Assistant Professor at St. Catherine University’s MLIS Program
http://sarahpark.com/
@readingspark

Molly Beth Griffin, Author and Teacher
http://mollybethgriffin.com/
@mbgriffinbooks

NOTE: I published a “Picture This Follow Up”  https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/picture-this-follow-up/

62 thoughts on “Picture This: Reflecting Diversity in Children’s Book Publishing

  1. Pingback: New Reflections of Diversity (or the lack thereof) In Children’s Literature | Crazy QuiltEdi

    1. Hi Sheila, I know we already communicated, but wanted to comment here that yes, please do share freely. I’d love to know how people are using this in their work, teaching, presentations, etc. I know a few libraries are framing and displaying it in their children’s rooms.

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  3. readitrealgood

    Reblogged this on Read It Real Good and commented:
    Check it out. Lots of work went into this & lots of work to be done. Animals and Trucks see themselves in books more than kids of color…

    Real life isn’t a Disney Movie.

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  5. Keren

    This infographic is a powerful way to demonstrate the lack of ethnic diversity in childrens’ books. What are the statistics about the percentages of female vs. male characters? Or gay vs. straight? I’d love to see those in image form too!

    1. Keren, there are many studies out there regarding gender diversity, and more and more now of depictions of LGBTQ, etc. Oftentimes scholars will limit the # of books they read; for example, a colleague of mine looked at gender diversity only within Caldecott winners. For LGBTQ content, I recommend reading Christine Jenkins, Michael Cart, Jamie Naidoo, Michelle Abate, Thomas Crisp, Rob Bittner, GayYa.

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  8. Comte

    The coding needs to be considered carefully. Remember K.T. Horning spoke earlier in the summer about how many books are now coming in (picture books) with characters who are clearly non-white, but not necessarily assignable to any race or ethnicity. I wonder how those are coded. Next, and probably more important, caution should be exercised with making white the default when an author does not make white the default. Coding “white” where an author describes a character physically but does not describe skin color, or where the skin color could be ambiguous in terms of its assignment to a race, ethnicity or people, may be convenient, but it may not reflect the way a child reads the text. Many children read with an implied mirror if that mirror is allowable by the author. Therefore, if an author writes a character that could be interpreted as being non-white because white is not specified, it is a political decision and not an artistic one to code that character as white. .

    1. Thanks for your comment. You’re right that there is more than the numbers depict. That said, the stats compiled by the CCBC provide a good baseline. And while some characters may be non-raced, 1) we typically read non-raced characters as white 2) a quick look at any collection of children’s books reveals that there are many more depictions of white children than that of Native children and children of color. I could also add 3) even if a character is clearly raced [Rue, Cinna, etc.] readers resist those descriptions and read them as white anyway. And 4) more than half of these 14.2% are written by outsiders, which increases (but does not definitively lead to) the likelihood of distortion. So yes, there’s much more to this issue than the numbers, but the numbers provide a good baseline. I hope folks take these numbers and dig deeper, as Debbie Reese has done at AICL: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2016/09/a-close-look-at-ccbcs-2015-data-on.html. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. Leilani

    This is a great infographic. We absolutely need more ethnic diversity in kids’ lit. What about separate stats for gender? My daughter complains that even the animal or anthropomorphized characters are (unnecessarily) male.

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