On May 14, CBC Diversity hosted a speed-dating-style event with six authors and illustrators known for creating inclusive literature. Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons and the Horn Book and presented in partnership with Children’s Books Boston, tables of eight to nine people spent ten minutes discussing diversity in children’s books with each of the featured children’s book creators (l to r): Anne Sibley O’Brien, Nicole Tadgell, Lesléa Newman, Rich Michelson, Susan Kuklin, and Francisco X. Stork .
Librarian and diversity advocate Sam Kane developed the following questions that formed the basis of each discussion:
- Why is it important that children have access to inclusive literature (books featuring a range of abilities, ages, ethnicities, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic classes)?
- What are the barriers that may prevent diversity books from getting into readers’ hands?
- What are some solutions, strategies, or conversations to help shift the barriers to getting these books into the hands of children? (Think about your industry or field.)
- Who has access to power in your industry or field? Which voices are denied access? Why?
- How can we educate the gatekeepers in your industry or field? What do they need to know or believe to create bookshelves that reflect our population?
- How can your industry or field promote or reward excellence as it pertains to inclusive literature?
What I found most inspiring about the evening was how it brought together participants from a wide variety of fields: we had teachers, principals, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, agents, academics, reviewers, bloggers—all united in our desire to promote and develop books that more adequately reflect the demographics and realities of the world in which we live. By providing a space for people to connect across disciplines, the event allowed new kinds of synergies to arise.