Observations about books for children and teens from the Cooperative Children's Book Center
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Same Old Story: The Stats on Multicultural Literature
It seems every 3-5 years, someone in the press discovers the statistics the CCBC keeps on multicultural literature, and publishes an article about it. This first happened back in 1989 when USA Today did a story on how difficult it was for African-American parents to find books for their children with characters who looked like them. It was accompanied by a nifty little graph that showed the first four years of our statistics, numbers we started documenting in 1985.
USA Today, 1989
This year on March 15 there were two terrific op ed pieces in the New York Times, one by Walter Dean Myers and one by his son, Christopher Myers, about the sad state of African-American children's literature, and the CCBC stats were again quoted. This has led to a whole new cycle of reporting. Even Entertainment Weekly did a two-page spread called Kid's Lit Primary Color: White. Their accompanying graphic even looks a bit like the original 1989 illustration from USA Today. Not surprising since the story is essentially the same one.
Entertainment Weekly, 2014
These stories always generate a lot of passionate discussion for a month or so. Then things die down and nothing changes. New books flow into the CCBC every day, and we continue to count and document the books by and about people of color. The numbers have stagnated for the past couple of decades -- we update the statistics on our web site every year. Many people know to look for them there. Others will stumble across them for the very first time and, in a few years, there will be another story. Maybe next time, it will be a different one.