Friday, 23 May 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Savita Kalhan

Last week was the 8th anniversary of Teen Librarian Monthly, run by the amazing Matt Imrie, @mattlibrarian. All the Edge authors were invited to write a piece on ‘Getting Kids Reading’, which is becoming more and more important in a world bursting with social media: You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Instant Chat – the list is endless. Factor in all the other distractions of being a teenager, and it’s easy to see how reading a book begins to fall way down their list of priorities.

My piece for Teen Librarian Monthly was about diversity in children’s literature. I’m cross-posting it here because it’s important to highlight the problem as many times as possible.

I recently blogged the lack of diversity in children’s books - Black and White and Everything in Between: You can read it here.

It was one of very many blogs on the subject – on both sides of the Atlantic. The subject seems to be gathering momentum – particularly in the States.

Following BookExpo America’s (BEA) BookCon line up of an all-white-all-male panel of ‘luminaries from the world of children’s and TEEN/YA writers’, an online campaign was conducted with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

Here’s the link to their Facebook page.
And this link is to their Tumblr page

#WeNeedDiverseBooks ran a three day event. Most of it was online on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook, but from the photos on Tumblr you can see that librarians were very much involved – as were readers, who took photos of themselves saying why they felt the need for more diversity in books

The American Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) also initiated a programme to address the lack of diversity in libraries in the States. The letter, below, was posted by Alyson Felman-Piltch, a librarian at Indiana University:
Dear Colleagues:
Many of you have already read ALSC’s White Paper entitled “The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Materials for Children” (available here). If not, I highly urge you to read it, as well as participate in the “We Need Diverse Books” social media campaign.
In lieu of all the recent hubbub around these important measures, I wanted to re-advertise and advocate for participation in an important effort currently being undertaken by members of the EMIERT (Ethnic & Multicultural Exchange Round Table). I am currently the Chair for the Task Force on Establishing Guidelines for Selecting Multicultural Materials for School & Public Libraries, and we would love to have additional voices and advocates on our task force. This is a virtual committee, though we will be trying to get together at Conferences, such as ALA Annual, ALSC Institute, and the YALSA Lit Symposium. If you would like more information on the Task Force, or are interested in joining, please do not hesitate to contact me by replying to this email. Please feel free to proliferate and share this email amongst groups and listservs.All the best,AlysonAlyson Feldman-Piltch, MLS/MIS CandidateDepartment of Library and Infoalyf
In the UK, the Guardian also followed the debate as authors added their voices to the call for more diversity. You can read it here here. 

As a direct result of the campaign, BEA decided there was a need for a panel discussing diversity in children’s literature and consequently invited authors and librarians to a special event at the Convention.

What’s very clear is a call for more diversity in children’s literature, from picture books to books for young adults, diversity in not only colour and race but in everything. In  Malorie Blackman’s words, “diversity in literature fosters knowledge and understanding of others outside our own sphere of experience. It is only through knowledge and empathy of how others live that we can attempt to communicate and connect with each other.

Setting aside the other factors that might contribute to teens generally reading less, are teens partly reading less because there isn’t enough diversity in the books available to them? And does it start when they are much younger, when they are frustrated by not finding a voice they can identify with or a character to relate to?

Savita Kalhan website

Twitter @savitakalhan


  1. Glad that you are spreading the word across more than one source Savita. This needs to go out worldwide!!

    1. Thanks, Miriam. And, yes, it does need to go worldwide.

  2. Hear, hear, Savita! Thanks for blogging about this.

    1. We should do a blog chain! I will blog too and link back. Come on everyone, wanna join in?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. A blog chain on diversity is a great idea, Candy. Go for it!