There’s an old adage in two of my favorite endeavors, science & baseball, that states, “The numbers don’t lie.”
Data is collected, analyzed, and then used to draw conclusions that can be accepted or challenged. For example, if the baseball data shows 85% of the times I strike out it’s on low, inside curveballs, then I better learn to make contact on low, inside curveballs or my baseball-playing days will soon involve a whole lot of time riding the pine.
The numbers don’t lie.
Of course, I can always ignore or skew the numbers to deflect the spotlight from the true conclusions. Sure, I might strike out on low, inside curveballs 85% of the time BUT 15% of the time I’m sure I strike out on TERRIBLE CALLS BY THE UMPIRE!!! The numbers are the same. The numbers themselves don’t lie. I just twisted them.
Last month, Sarah Park Dahlen, Associate Professor, MLIS Program at St. Catherine University, and illustrator David Huyck released the second version of their Diversity in Children’s Books infographic of children’s publishing data, the 2018 version. Their 2015 version was a game-changer in the diverse books movement.
As far as what happened in children’s literature during 2018, the numbers don’t lie. Please take a few moments to study the infographic with an analytical eye to these important numbers.
It is also said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, then the Diversity in Children’s Books 2015 and 2018 infographics are worth millions and millions of words. The millions and millions of words of untold and underrepresented stories. As much as the infographic shows what’s there in children’s publishing, the weight of what’s missing permeates the image.
Compare 2015 to 2018
|Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American||3.3%||7%|
|American Indians/First Nations||0.9%||1%|
Small steps in the right direction? Perhaps (with emphasis on “small”).
Are these small steps good enough? No.
Meaningful change would have shown the 2018 books not being published in the “White” (-23.3%) category split into any or all of the other categories listed beside the “Animal/Other” (+14.5%) category. It doesn’t. To my thinking, the 2018 data represent manuscripts likely submitted after the 2015 infographic was published. A period of acquisitions far after the beginnings of the We Need Diverse Books Movement. There should have been a greater general awareness of acquiring diverse titles in this time period leading up to the 2018 publication window.
We can do better.
But how? We don’t publish books. Most of us aren’t in the acquisition process or in any position to make these direct decisions. What we can do, especially as readers, writers, librarians, and scholars, is this:
Be a fan.
Read, purchase, gift, discuss, and celebrate quality and representative diverse books. Ask your library and/or bookseller to order specific diverse titles you enjoy or want to enjoy. Find a way to put quality diverse kids’ books into the hands and minds of kid readers. Spread the word of your fandom with others and help diverse books find their landing space. Cultivate your own literary table where all are not only welcome but can share in the meal as well.
Here’s another way to spread the word. Infographic cards! Thanks to the fine folks at Teaching for Change for making these cards available so it will be easier to share the Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 infographic to classrooms, libraries, conferences, workshops, and anywhere children’s literature is consumed, discussed, or produced with. Below is the link to request cards from Teaching for Change.
Also, if you wish to help defray the costs of printing The Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 infographic cards, there’s the opportunity to help them out through a donation.
Personally, I plan to dig deeper into the numbers as I study the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s data for 2018 and pay attention to the conversation taking place discussing the data behind the 2018 infographic. I encourage and challenge you to join me in this endeavor. My goal is to understand the numbers to a higher degree in hopes to be a better global citizen, especially in one of my favorite neighborhoods on the planet, the kid lit community.
Thank you for considering your support of these important and worthy causes aimed to make our world a better place, one book at a time.
Reading is a superpower!
The numbers don’t lie…