"If someone had been fussing with me
to read like my sister, I might have missed
the picture book filled with brown people,
more brown people than I'd ever seen
in a book before.
The little boy's name was Steven but
his mother kept calling him Stevie.
My name is Robert but my momma don't
call me Robertie.
"If someone had taken
that book out of my hand
said, You're too old for this
I'd never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story."
- Jacqueline Woodson, author
Brown Girl Dreaming
2015 National Book Award Winner
2015 Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award Winner
2015 Newbery Honor Book Award Winner
Jacqueline Woodson's recollection of discovering the picture book Stevie by John Steptoe at her local public library when she was a young girl encapsulates one of the motivations for the We Need Diverse Books campaign: increasing the possibility for young people to find a book/read a story about "someone who looked like me."
The campaign was launched in April 2014 by several authors to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. The website for the campaign states: "We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process."
Empowering a wide range of readers... because the flip side of discovering that someone who looks like me has a story, is learning that someone who doesn't look like me has a story. Or as one supporter of the "We Need Diverse Books" initiative notes: "We need to meet our familiar selves in stories, and we need to meet our unfamiliar selves."
Over the years, the American Library Association has established a number of awards to help promote awareness of stories written and illustrated from the "non-majority" perspective.
The Coretta Scott King Book Award, founded in 1969, is presented annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.
The Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 to recognize a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
The Schneider Family Book Award was first presented in 2004 to honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.
This year, the major awards for Children's Literature - the Newbery and Caldecott Awards - made a point to honor stories from a variety of races and cultures. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, received the Newbery Award for most outstanding contribution to children's literature. This story about African American brothers also was named as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Viva Frida, the Belpré Illustrator Award winner, also earned recognition as a Caldecott Honor Book for the most distinguished American picture book for children. El Deafo, which describes in graphic novel format the author's experience with hearing loss as a young child, was named as a Newbery Honor Book, along with Brown Girl Dreaming.