Monday, August 31, 2015

Why #BigFiveSignOn? #WNDB

Dear Publishers,

Please sign up for the Diversity Baseline survey designed by Lee & Low. As they state,
Our goal with the Diversity Baseline Survey is to establish a baseline that shows where we are now so we can start taking concrete steps to address the problem.
The purpose is not to point fingers or to shame anyone. The purpose is to find out exactly who we are and where we are, as an industry, at this moment in time. You've seen the numbers: while more than 50% of our entering kindergarteners are children of color, only around 10% of our books depict children of color. 

In other words, somehow, despite all kinds of good intentions, this is where we are now: 
Our children's books don't look like our children.

Actual numbers telling us what we're working with now is the only way we can figure out how we need to address the complex, intertwining systems that result in the current outcome. We need to know what to address, where and how.

Changing systems and institutions is like turning around enormous ships at sea: it doesn't happen without intense, persistent action by many people armed with specific information, goals and targets. We're all invested in making a change to address this challenge.

Why does this matter to me, personally?

  • I was raised in South Korea as the daughter of medical missionaries. From the example of my parents who chose to work, play and live side-by-side with Korean colleagues, friends, and extended family, and from countless Koreans who welcomed me as a guest, a friend and a little sister, I absorbed the deep knowledge that across all our differences, we are one human family. I want books that reflect this truth.
  • As I became a published author and illustrator, I longed to portray the beauty and glory of human difference. My books had to be diverse; that was the world I knew.
  • When our daughter joined our family by adoption from Korea, and my husband and I were raising her and her white brother, I knew that having diverse books, lots of them, depicting all kinds of people, was essential to their wellbeing and development of healthy identities. In different ways, they both needed to see both themselves - and others - reflected in the books they read.
  • I've been following the research of neuroscientists on the development of unconscious bias. I work with a colleague, Professor Krista Aronson of Bates College, whose research demonstrates that books portraying positive relationships across race can actually reduce prejudice. 
  • Some recent studies show that we may be able to interrupt the development of racial bias in infants by creating positive associations with faces of racial groups they're unfamiliar with. The researchers used photos, but why not picture book illustrations?
  • Now I am participating in raising our biracial grandson and my passion for and delight in sharing diverse books has only increased
Ensuring that our children have access to books in which they can see themselves and others reflected is our essential task. It won't be easy, but we can do this. 

Please sign up for the survey, and let's all get to work, together.

"The literature of America should reflect the children of America."
Lucille Clifton


Agyw said...

As someone who uses her work to portray different ethnicities, ages, races and even species (I like a lot of animals in my work) the hardest thing for me is figuring how to get my work before people who would be interested in it. Duke Day For Annie has historical as well as as the empirical importance and impact you speak of (Ann was friends with Duke Ellington, and grew up to be the first certified African American schoolteacher in Maine. It also shows a little known or portrayed aspect of African American history in a high interest place and time- Old Orchard Beach c. 1938). I agree the books need to be reflective, but with books like The Rabbit Who Wanted To Sleep sucking up oxygen and getting attention finding media outlets that actually reflect people's concerns and make up will be another challenge. Love you blog and work Anne and hope you are well!

Anne Sibley O'Brien said...

Great to hear from you, Agy. Your book sounds really fascinating.

I also experience that getting diverse books to the audiences that want them remains extremely challenging these days - including once they're published. And if they don't sell, then publishers can't afford to keep putting these significant books out. Several people have noted that not only do We Need Diverse Books, but We Need Diverse Book SALES.

Kirsten Cappy and I have been having conversations about - and a tiny bit of preliminary success in locating - alternative sources of purchasing for books that need to get into the hands of children. For instance, encourage companies who want to give to the community to purchase large quantities and donate them to schools. See the link to her article on the topic on brown Bookshelf, in my "Black lives Matter" post: It's an important idea.

We definitely need outside-the-box thinking, in all directions, to turn this ship around!
Best of luck with your work,