Since LEE & LOW BOOKS was founded in 1991 we have monitored the number of multicultural children’s books published each year through the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s statistics. Our hope has always been that with all of our efforts and dedication to publishing multicultural books for more than twenty years, we must have made a difference. Surprisingly, the needle has not moved.The graph is telling. Look at that flat line of percentages.
So what do we do about this, exactly? At VCFA we've talked about the need to recruit more students of color into the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. How do we do that in conscience, if this is how the numbers play out?
I've been at conferences where teachers and librarians have stopped to look at my books and talk to me, then say as they disengage apologetically, "I don't have a large South Asian population in my area." Nikki Grimes and Rudine Sims-Bishop both refer to this frequently encountered perception that books about minority characters will only be read by minority kids.
Is this for real? Do we really only expect people to read books that reflect themselves? That seems like an awfully narrow view of reading. Speaking for myself, if I'd only been willing to read books about kids like me, I'd have grown up illiterate.