Equity and Inclusion in Children’s and Young Adult Books: Overview

The conversation around diversity and inclusion has been buzzing since Nancy Larrick’s article, “The All-White World of Children’s Books,” was published on Sept. 11, 1965 in The Saturday Review.

However, it’s kicked into much higher gear due to changing demographics, the call to action in Walter Dean Myers’s landmark article (“Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?”) published on March 15, 2014 in The New York Times and the formation of the We Need Diverse Books nonprofit organization (among other influencers).

Consequently, I have elected to group resources by those most and least recent, with the obvious caveat that many of those longer established are equally if not more valuable and extensive in expertise and scope.

In particular, this is to emphasize that the conversation has evolved beyond inclusion of race and culture to include other underrepresented voices and identity elements related to body type, faith, mental and physical disabilities, gender identity, refugee status, sexual orientation, etc.

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.

Videos: Mirrors, Windows, Sliding Glass Doors & Curtains

Equity and Inclusion Overview (More Recent Resources)

Why We Need Diverse Books Is No Longer Using the Term #OwnVoices. Peek: “…it has since expanded in its use to become a ‘catch all’ marketing term by the publishing industry. Using #OwnVoices in this capacity raises issues due to the vagueness of the term, which has then been used to place diverse creators in uncomfortable and potentially unsafe situations. It is important to use the language that authors want to celebrate about themselves and their characters.”

Awards Discussion Fodder: Thoughts on Stereotypes by Allie Jane Bruce from Reading While White.

BookExpo 2017: On Race, Reviewing and Responsibility by John A. Sellers from Publishers Weekly. PEEK: “Asked about the biggest challenges they face with regard to issues of diversity, Smith landed on fact-checking, particularly in the wake of Kirkus’s recent decision to identify the race and ethnicity of characters in its children’s and YA reviews, which can be difficult when an author isn’t explicit about a character’s background.”

Books in the Home: “Mommy, Do I Have White Skin?” Skin Color, Family, and Picture Books by Julie Hakim Azzam from The Horn Book.

Children’s Peace and Anti-Bias Library by Julie Olsen Edwards from Cabrillo Community College.

Conscious Style Guide: “the latest observations, opinions and community style guides–all in one place.”

Culturally Diverse Books, Selected by SLJ’s Editors from School Library Journal. PEEK: “Recent conversations on blogs, listservs, and other social media—as well as alarming new statistics on the state of multicultural literature for children—have underscored the continuing need for books that reflect the growing diversity of an increasingly global society. The debate over which kinds of multicultural literature are best or most needed has also been reignited.”

Decolonizing Nostalgia: When Historical Fiction Betrays Readers of Color by Sarah Hanna Gomez from The Horn Book. PEEK: “I took what I could from these books I enjoyed, but each book left me with even more of a desire to find everyday historical fiction that would help build up my collective memory instead of telling me I had none.”

Diverse Book Recommendations by Crystal Brunelle from Reading Through Life. PEEK: “Here are titles for a wide variety of ages and interests.”

Diversifying Your Classroom Books Collection? Avoid These 7 Pitfalls from Kara Newhouse from KQED. PEEK: “…seven pitfalls to avoid when deciding what to leave in and out, accompanied by more than 50 title recommendations based on conversations in this piece to help kickstart the journey.”

Diversity in Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers – Marketing Matters, Too, by Jean Ho from NPR.

Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 from Sarah Park. PEEK: “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.”

The Diversity Gap in Children’s Publishing 2017 from Lee and Low. PEEK: “The number of diverse books being published each year stayed stagnant for more than two decades, but… the number of books written by people of color has not kept pace. In fact, in 2016, Black, Latinx, and Native authors combined wrote just 6% of new children’s books published.”

Finding the Lost Voices With YA Historical Fiction by Pia Ceres from Lee & Low Books.

How Canada Publishes So Many Diverse Children’s Books by Ken Setterington from School Library Journal.

Kirkus Collections: “…helps librarians build and continually update collections curated with both literary merit and thematic issues in mind. Our inaugural lists focus on diversity in children’s and young adult literature and are the result of a process that builds on the diverse voices of Kirkus’ children’s and YA reviewers, who have reviewed more than 50,000 books over a 30-year period, and the work of the editors of Kirkus Reviews, with added input from a team of diversity experts who help ensure that our selections meet modern standards of sensitivity and respect.”

Levine Querido: Making Waves in the Spanish Market from Publishers Weekly. Peek: “With LQ, [Arthur Levine] vowed to create a diverse collective of publishing professionals to pour their energies into magnificent books by…marginalized creators. More than half of the LQ staff identifies as Latine…[A]s of 2023, 30% of the publisher’s list is by Latine creators….LQ launched a new imprint, Ediciones LQ, in 2022, which publishes books in Spanish.”

Looking Back: Diversity in Board Books by Joanna Marple from We Need Diverse Books.

Meeting Characters in Caldecotts: What Does This Mean for Today’s Readers by Miriam Martinez, Melanie D. Kross, and Nancy J. Johnson from The Reading Teacher (International Literary Association). PEEK: “…during the last 15 years of the Caldecott, no Asian or Native American characters have been represented. There has only been one Latino/a main character. In the last five years, only two books were set outside the United States; both were biographies set in the past.So, there has been no representation of contemporary life in countries outside the United States.” SEE ALSO Diversity in Contemporary Picture Books: A Content Analysis by Melanie D. Kross from Journal of Children’s Literature (The Children’s Literature Assembly).

Mirrors? Windows? How About Prisms? by Uma Krishnaswami from Writing with a Broken Tusk.

Reading While Black (Or, For Colored Children Who Considered Literary Suicide When the Rainbow Wasn’t Enough) by Ibi Zoboi form Reading While White. PEEK: “There’s a certain truth that only a writer telling her own story can bring. From that deep place of lived experience comes validation—a clear, sharpened focus on the specificity of human existence.”

Reading While White: “working for racial diversity and inclusion in books for children and teens.”

Research on Diversity in Youth Literature: a “peer-reviewed, online, open-access journal hosted by St. Catherine University’s Master of Library and Information Science Program and University Library.”  PEEK: “The mission of Research on Diversity in Youth Literature is to publish scholarship attending to issues of diversity, equity, social justice, inclusion, and intersectionality in youth literature, culture, and media.”

Rich In Color: “dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult books (fiction and non-fiction) starring or written by people of color or people from First/Native Nations.”

Research on Diversity in Youth Literature from St. Catherine’s University. PEEK: “…committed to providing space for urgent conversations affecting underrepresented communities, and specifically communities disproportionately affected by violence.”

Social Justice Books: A Teaching for Change Project. PEEK: “The best selection of multicultural and social justice books for children, YA, and educators.”

Standing Up for the Vulnerable by Mary E. Cronin from Project Mayhem.

Stop Calling Popular Tropes in YA Novels “Overused” by Arriel Vinson from We Need Diverse Books. PEEK: “[T]here is…now more space for writers of color in the publishing world to play around with tropes….[Kristina Forest:] ‘I don’t think a trope can be overdone if writers of color haven’t had the chance to incorporate tropes into their own novels, let alone have their novels published.’”

There’s No Secret to Writing About People Who Do Not Look Like You by Brandon Taylor from Literary Hub.

We Need Diverse Books…But Are We Willing to Discuss Them With Our Kids by Betsy Bird from A Fuse 8 Production at School Library Journal. PEEK: “according to NurtureShock it isn’t enough to just plop your child in what you assume will be a color-blind environment.  As the book says, ‘We might imagine we’re creating color-blind environments for children, but differences in skin color or hair or weight are like differences in gender – they’re plainly visible.'”

We Need Diverse Books Condemns the Recent Decision by Scholastic Book Fairs from We Need Diverse Books. Peek: “We live in a diverse society. Students cannot opt out of their own diverse identities: it is simply their reality….When corporations, governments, and individuals capitulate to the demands of the vocal minority, our children…suffer the most. This action harms all children by depriving them of the opportunity to read about experiences that are different from their own.” Update: Scholastic Apologizes, Will End Controversial Book Fair Offerings by Nathalie op de Beeck from Publishers Weekly.

When Defending Your Writing Becomes Defending Yourself from NPR.

When Publishing and Reviewing Diverse Books, Is Expertise Overrated? by Jason Low from School Library Journal.

Where Is the Diversity in Publishing? The 2015 Diversity Survey Baseline Results from Lee and Low. PEEK: “Countless panels, articles, and even conferences have been dedicated to exploring the causes and effects of this lack of diversity. Yet one key piece of the puzzle remained a question mark: diversity among publishing staff. While the lack of diversity among publishing staff was often spoken about, there was very little hard data about who exactly works in publishing.” SEE ALSO Top 10 Responses to the Diversity Baseline Survey.

White Fragility by Justine Larbalestier from Reading While White.

What Makes a High-Quality Diverse Text and How to Get These Texts Into Your Classroom by Jill Eisenberg from Achieve the Core. PEEK: “Our classroom library bookshelves and mentor texts should feel intentional, purposeful, and transforming; to that end, many educators and administrators are eager to infuse more culturally responsive, multicultural, and inclusive stories into the classroom….Adding more culturally responsive and relevant books to your instruction does not have to be overwhelming, expensive, or time intensive.”

Multicultural Overview (Resources Originating Pre 2010)

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

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!”

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.” CYN 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.

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.”

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.