“We Need Diverse Books”: Diversity, Activism, and Children’s Literature

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Children’s literature has long been what Nancy Larrick called an “all-white world” (1965). According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and despite calls for diverse representation in books for young readers, the percentage of children’s books depicting non-white individuals has remained at approximately 10 percent in the twenty-first century, with high rates of outsider authorship dominating some of the categories. This chapter examines the circumstances that led to the We Need Diverse Books campaign (2014), places We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) in the larger context of publishing history, and projects ways to bring about meaningful, lasting change, including publisher Lee & Low’s Diversity Baseline Survey. By drawing on sociological and psychological studies, and on the works of scholars, authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, teachers, and others who have been working toward equity in children’s literature for many decades, this chapter presents a history of activism for diverse books, describes where the movements are today, and considers directions for the years to come.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLiterary Cultures and Twenty-First-Century Childhoods
EditorsNathalie op de Beeck
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-32146-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-32145-1
StatePublished - Aug 6 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameLiterary Cultures and Childhoods


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