Wednesday, April 30, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign addresses youth media depictions

Fifteen books' cover images arranged in a three-down and five-across grid with the caption, "Join us May 1, 2 & 3 to talk about why #WeNeedDiverseBooks, http://weneeddiversebooks,"
Image credit: #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign
As an autism self-advocate and aspiring librarian, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign doubly resonates with me.

At Teen Librarian Toolbox, a teen librarian says that the hardest part of her job is “is going through every resource I can to try and find books with diverse characters or written by diverse authors. As a woman, I know how empowering it is for me to see positive depictions of women in the media, so I want those for my tweens and teens as well. I want them to read about and see on the covers a diverse population that looks more like the real world we live in.”

She cites a finding by School Library Journal, that in 2013, only five middle-grade titles featured a black boy as main character.

“Diversity matters because we live in a diverse world.” And diversity, she adds, is more than about just representation for people of color. “It is about better representation for woman, for GLBTQ teens, and for characters with disabilities.”

As a library professional, I share this teen librarian’s concern about accurate portrayals that speak to her patrons’ experiences. At the same time, I share membership in a minority culture.

I specifically began curating my list of books for people on the autism spectrum because so many books are written from the perspective of someone for whom we present problems or challenges. Far fewer attempt to speak to our experiences as we navigate societies and institutions that were not designed with us in mind.

Photo submissions, a Twitter chat and Diversify Your Shelves initiative are among planned observances during the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, taking place online May 1 through 3.

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