Diversity

From the earliest years of the Center for Children’s Books, the Bulletin and Center have been attentive to issues of diversity and the need for children to see, in Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s words (1990) “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors”—that is, reflections of themselves in books, as well as entry points into the lives of others—or into another version of their own lives.1 During the Center for Children’s Books’ 75th Anniversary Lecture Series, Professor Emerita Betsy Hearne explained that ALA’s Booklist refused to review the now-classic middle-grade novel Harriet the Spy (1964), and the ALA bypassed it for inclusion on its list of notables. By contrast, the BCCB’s Zena Sutherland described the quintessentially queer children’s book as “marvelously shrewd,” a text displaying “fierce candor.” The Bulletin also recognized the significance of early works by Virginia Hamilton and Walter Dean Myers, authors who would go on to capture multiple major honors, including the first Newbery Medal won by an African-American-authored text, Hamilton’s M.C. Higgins the Great (1974). Evaluating Myer’s first novel Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff (1975), the Bulletin praised its “abundant vitality in the dialogue.” Likewise, Hamilton’s second novel The House of Dies Drear (1968) earned a rave review: “Written with distinction, an imaginative and imposing book.”

The CCB’s Advisory Committee has included such luminaries as Charlemae Rollins, the longtime head of the children’s department at Chicago Public Library and a tireless advocate for diverse children’s books (We Build Together: A Reader’s Guide to Negro Life and Literature for Elementary and High School Use) and Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress and the first African American and the first woman to hold the post.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop gave the CCB’s second endowed Gryphon Lecture: “Stony the Road We Trod: African American Children’s Literature, Stories of a People’s Journey” (2006). And more recently, Dr. Kafi Kumasi gave a Gryphon Lecture titled, “Check the Rhyme: Harnessing Hip Hop’s Enduring Literacies with Youth in Libraries” (2017).

Historically, the core reviewers for the Bulletin and staff of the CCB have been white, a reality that mirrors the demographics of the library profession as a whole. At the end of its 75th year, the CCB is delighted to welcome iSchool alum, Sarah Park Dahlen, as an associate professor. Her work on diversity in children’s literature is internationally recognized and will be a valuable asset to the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois.

As the CCB marks its 75th anniversary, it renews and amplifies its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in youth literature, media, culture, and scholarship.

1 Rudine Sims Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom 6, no. 3 (1990). 

Infographic of percentage of children's books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds where white representation is five times higher than African/African American, 10 times higher than Latinx
David Huyck and Sarah Park Dahlen, "Diversity in Children’s Books 2018," sarahpark.com blog (June 19, 2019). Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/literature-resources/ccbc-diversity-statistics/books-by-about-poc-fnn/. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/.

Selected Gryphon Lectures Featuring Diversity and Inclusion Themes