Schools of Thought, Visuals
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Infographic: Diversity in Children’s Books (Makes Me Sad)


David sent me a link to this infographic illustrated by Tina Kugler this morning.

These are sad statistics. Even more interesting is the comparison between the percentages about the demographic and the percentage that wrote them:

“Of the 3,600 books the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed in 2012:*
3% were about Africans/African Americans; 1.8% were written by Africans/African Americans
1.5% were about Latinos; 1.6% were written by Latinos
Less than 1% were about American Indians; less than 1% were written by American Indians
2% were about Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans; 2.3% were written by Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans

Now let’s compare these literature percentages with their actual population in the United States.

According to Wikipedia and the 2010 U.S. Census:
Only 72.4% of the United States is White or European American. NOT 93%!!!
12.6% is African American (3% of books are about African Americans)
5% Asian American/Pacific Islander (2% of books are about Asians)

The underrepresentation of African Americans and Asians in Children’s Books compared to population is pretty distressing.

While Native Americans are only .9% of the population, this still leaves 2,932,248 people underrepresented in children’s books and literature in general.

And let’s not forget: 6.2% of the United States identified as “Some Other Race” and 2.9% as “two or more races,” no doubt they are almost never represented.

The saddest to me is the lack of Native American representation. They are so largely forgotten already, even in adult literature (the only Native American authors who even come to mind immediately are Sherman Alexi and Phillip Deloria).

It reminds me of a campaign that was started a little while ago in collaboration with Shepard Fairey, which I saw in New York City last summer:

There are without question several social and economic factors that go into this discrepancy, including the obvious fact that becoming a children’s book writer is usually a career path that requires some funds to support it initially, which certain races and families are more inclined to have. At the same time, those who do have the privilege of writing books that young minds consume should be cognizant of the lack of diversity in the industry and actively make efforts to fix it. While I understand it is easier to write about what you know, no one is limited to writing stories about their own race.

Parents should also make conscious efforts to purchase a myriad of books that respectfully represent different types of Americans so their child can be exposed to all of the people in this country. If people don’t buy books about non-white subjects, they will stop publishing them.

Just something to think about.

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3 Comments

  1. No argument that there is a vast lack of diversity in all areas, but this breakdown seems seriously lacking in one area… what about all the children’s books that didn’t have ethnicities at all but were about animals? Those are the ones I remember reading. Cats and dogs, ducks and bears, caterpillars and ladybugs?

    • I thought exactly the same same thing, and then realized that this wouldn’t effect the data really at all. A book about mice or bugs obviously wouldn’t be counted into any percentage of race breakdown. Animals don’t have race. This study is only critiquing books with human characters. As for the percentages written by authors of each race, yes, if you are not counting books with no humans then the data could be a little off. For some reason I don’t imagine there are a whole slew of Native American or African American writers that write books exclusively without humans and would actually make much of a difference in the percentages. You can read the original study here if you’re still interested: http://www.firstbook.org/first-book-story/media-center/press-room/275-first-book-announces-pioneering-new-initiative-to-create-more-diversity-in-childrens-publishing

      • Sorry, I guess I was looking more at the first picture that subtracted the minorities which left a 93% about caucasians, but I was wondering if that still wasn’t skewed because many children’s books aren’t about any ethnicity, so wouldn’t that lower the total percentage of caucasian characters?

        But yeah, it really doesn’t matter one way or the other because there still is a sad lack of representation, regardless. I’m certainly not arguing that, I think I was more thinking out loud.

        Maybe I should submit some of my children’s stories to that publishing house…

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