Exploring Diversity through Children's & Young Adult Books:
Background Reading

Please note that this page tends to highlight proportionally more children's and young adult literature from the United States than other nations simply because the site authors are most well acquainted with that category. However, we welcome and encourage site visitors to let us know about great resources for books from around the world.

Multicultural overview

Multicultural Reading from CYALR: an annotated bibliography of some of our favorite titles; great for curriculum building, collection diversification, and reading group planning. Will print in black and white, without side elements, for easy printing and distribution.

(Write to Cynthia for permission to distribute for educational purposes; require that authorship and copyright remain clear).

Started as a summer reading list upon request in 2002, currently updated for continuing use with latest titles.

Celebrating Diversity with Children's Books by Tessa Goldwasser from ALSC Blog. Peek: "I don’t know if books can save lives, but I do know that the right book, in the right hands, at the right time, can have a transformative effect on a person’s life. That’s why I am personally passionate about positive and realistic portrayals of the GLBT community in literature, especially literature for young people."

Top 10 Multicultural Picture Books by Cynthia Leitich Smith from PaperTigers.Blog.

2010 U.S. Population Data Compared with Books By and About Color from Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "...a table we compiled in my month-long course on 'Race, Culture, and Power in Children's Books' at Saint Mary's College of California."

Diversity: Wow, It's Complicated by Brent Hartinger from Brent's Brain. Peek: "We all need to be aware of this issue — in our own works and in the works of others. If the characters you're writing (and reading) are exactly like you, it's worth asking yourself, 'Why might that be?'"

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award: "a citation awarded to an American publisher for a children's book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States."

Bookbird: A Journal of International Children's Literature, a refereed journal published quarterly by IBBY.

Celebrate with Books: "created to showcase and discuss books that cross cultures for children and teens."

"Children's Books By and About People of Color Published in the U.S. 2002-" from CCBC.

Creating Optimal Learning Environments for All Children: Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Materials from the Early Childhood Education E-Newsletter. March 2002.

Demand Diversity in Publishing by Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray. Peek: "Think about balance in your reviewing—think about books for kids with black skin or brown, kids who attend a Mosque or Synagogue, kids who go to school on a reservation or Native village in Alaska or that had grandparents from Asia or the Middle East or India or Kenya or Haiti or Cuba. Think about everyone else as much as you think about yourself."

ETHNIC BOOK AWARDS by Sherry York (Linworth Publishing, 2005). "A unique resource for Americas, Asian Pacific American, Carter G. Woodson, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre, Syndney Taylor, and Tomas Rivera Awards!"

Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from the fall 2001 issue of Early Childhood Research and Practice (ERIC). Emphasis on Mexican American themes. The authors "raise potentially controversial issues in their discussion of multicultural picture books." They also invite related discussion on the site.

The Elephant in the Room by Elizabeth Bluemle from PW Shelf Talker. Peek: "What I’d like to do is open the conversation by offering some positive, creative steps we can all take to make the world of children’s books—behind the scenes, in addition to between the covers—catch up to the amazing, diverse, infinitely rich world those books are meant to reflect and celebrate." Note: features original, tie-in art by Kevan Atteberry, Addie Boswell, Jerry Craft, Katie Davis, Nancy Devard, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Laura Freeman, Erin Eitter Kono, Grace Lin, Nicole Tadgell, and Sharon Vargo. See also Is My Character Black Enough? from Stacy Whitman's Grimoire.

Facial Expressions, Culture, and Stories by Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "...should writers, artists, directors, and actors depict facial expressions or non-verbals in a way that's easily understood by the culture consuming the story, even if it might not be 'authentic'?"

Funny Books Featuring Multicultural Protagonists by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "Feel free to add more suggestions of funny books in the comments, and I'll update the list."

Global Reading: Selected Literature for Children and Teens Set in Other Countries: compiled by Megan Schliesman from CCBC (2007).

How To Write About...(Pick a Place or People) by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: "Look at any of half a dozen YA novels set in South Asia and you might conclude that all the girls in the region are trying desperately to flee oppressive marriage or widowhood or sexual exploitation. You will feel pity for them and more, you will be grateful that you are not in their place. The thing is, you can't see people as fully human if all you can feel for them is pity."

Humor in Multicultural Fiction: A Bibliography: prepared by the EMIERT Children’s Services Committee June 27, 2005 Chicago ALA Annual Conference.

The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY): “a non-profit organization which represents an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together.”

Interview with Taraneh Matloob on Outsiders Writing Across Cultures with an Insider's Eye by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk. Peek: "In Iran, we are introduced to the Western culture mainly through translation; Iranian authors rarely write about the West from their point of view. However, it is important to have Iranian multicultural authors who write about the West from the outside position because Western audience needs to know how their culture is viewed from the East. Conversely, this is true for the Westerners who write about the East."

Lee & Low New Voices Award: competition is open to picture book manuscripts no longer than 1,500 words by "writers of color" who are previously unpublished in the picture book.

Making Multicultural Connections Through Trade Books from Montgomery County Public Schools. Featured books were deemed to have a specific educational connection to the districts program in reading/language arts, math, social studies, or science. Entries include lesson plans, bibliographical information, and brief plot summaries.

Multicultural Children's Authors: a listing of links from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.

Multicultural Humor, Seriously from Cynsations, inspired by a keynote address given at Reading The World (University of San Francisco) in spring 2004.

Multiculturalism Rocks! A blog on multiculturalism in children's literature from Nathalie Mvondo. Peek: "This blog celebrates multiculturalism in children's literature and the people who make it happen."

MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS by Ginny Moore Kruse and Kathleen T. Horning from the Cooperative Children's Book Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (two volumes). Excellent listings of multicultural books, and the introductions are must-reads for anyone serious about children's literature.

Multicultural Pavillion by Paul Gorski features teacher resources, original essays and articles, educational equity information, Listserv, poetry, songs, film reviews, and more.

Multicultural Resources for Children from the Internet School Library. Extensive site includes link to Multicultural Book Reviews. Also features bibliographies on the following: African American, Africa, Appalachian, Asian-American and Asia/Pacific Islands, Christian, European American, Hispanic Americans, Islamic, Jewish, and Native American.

Multicultural Review: "dedicated to a better understanding of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity." Features articles and book reviews. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Specific Multicultural Children's Literature Awards: includes a brief summary of each. Cyn Note: this is a PDF file.

Straight Talk on Race: Challenging the stereotypes in kids’ books by Mitali Perkins from SLJ. Peek: "Books for a generation of readers who regularly mix and explore race and ethnicity must express diversity lest we fall into the trap of the television show Friends, in which an all-white cast lived and worked in an apparently all-white New York City."

Ten Quick Ways to Analyze Books for Racism and Sexism from the Council on Interracial Children's Books.

Ten Tips On Writing Race in Novels by Mitali Perkins at Mitali's Fire Escape.

Tips on Selling "Multicultural" Children's-YA Books by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "When doing a display of 'good summer reads' or 'great books about friendship' or whatever the display is, make sure each display has multicultural titles in it."

What's the Big Deal With Multicultural Publishing Anyway by children's book author Uma Krishnaswami.

“Why I Write Multicultural Books” by Cynthia Chin-Lee from PaperTigers.

Writing Race by Mitali Perkins from Mitali's Fire Escape. Peek: "...ten questions we writers can ask ourselves once we've completed a story."

Writing While White by Justine Larbalestier. Peek: "What we all have to remember when we write about people—any people—is that the risks of reinforcing stereotypes and thus hurting people is very high. So the onus is on us to do the very best job we can. We also have to remember that even when we do a wonderful job, even if we are a member of the group we’re representing, there are still people who will be offended."

A Year of Thinking About Diversity by Malinda Lo from Diversity in YA Lit. Peek: "...after a year of working on Diversity in YA, my own awareness of diversity has shifted immensely. I think about books differently. I think about writing differently. I actively notice whether a book is about a person of color or not. I've seen where my own fears and assumptions have limited me, both in my writing and in my everyday engagement with race and sexual orientation/gender identity."

NOTE: if you are looking for books in languages other than English, you may want also to try the Magic Tree Bookstore Inc. at 141 N Oak Park Ave, Oak Park, IL, USA (708) 848-0770.