Friday, June 21, 2019

Infographic: Diversity in Children's Books 2018

You know that saying: "a picture is worth a thousand words"? We most often associate it with art but it applies to any image. Take a look at the 2018 Diversity Infographic that Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen shared on June 19th, 2019. The infographic displays CCBC's data using the "mirrors" part of the "windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors" metaphor that Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop developed in 1991:



If you click on the link above you'll go to her page, where you can download the image and use it in your work. I hope you do. This information needs as much visibility as we can give it.

Let's zoom in on the Native kid on the far left:


At the time the infographic was being designed, the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) had received and categorized 3,134 books. Of those, 23 had sufficient content to be included on CCBC's list of American Indians/First Nations books. But see the kid's frown? See his mirror? See a piece of it at his feet?

The data shown in the infographic is strictly numerical. It does not capture the quality of books. His frown and the broken mirror convey more than a thousand words.

In recent years I've tried to do a careful study of a specific aspect of the data. For 2018 data, I did a close look at the fiction and picture books published in the US. Every year, it is clear that most Native writers are finding that small publishers are interested in their work. For several reasons (none of them good), the major publishers seem not to care about Native #OwnVoices.

Let's zoom in even further on that data and look at quality of picture books.

In 2018, three picture books by Native writers/illustrators were published in the US. All three are from small publishers:

  • Bowwow Powwow by Brenda Child, illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, and translated by Gordon Jourdain, was published by the Minnesota Historical Society. 
  • We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac (who is not Native), was published by Charlesbridge.
  • First Laugh--Welcome Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood (Flood is not Native), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, was published by Charlesbridge.


My research sample only had one book picture book in it by a non-Native writer:

  • Tomo Explores the World written and illustrated by Trevor Lai, published by Macmillan.


Now, let's do a comparison. The three by Native writers are doing precisely what we want children's books about Native people to do.

  • They are tribally specific. That means that they depict a specific Native nation. Bowwow Powwow is an Ojibwe story; We Are Grateful:Otsaliheliga is a Cherokee book, and First Laugh--Welcome Baby is about a Navajo family. 
  • They include an Indigenous language. 

Tomo Explores the World does none of that. It is stereotypical in words, ideas, and illustrations. Earlier today I made this image to show what I mean:



#OwnVoices is important. As you're out and about in the coming days, ask for books by Native writers--ask for them at your library and local bookstore, too. When you're there, show the librarian or bookseller the infographic. In short: share what you're learning. Help us provide more books by Native writers.


1 comment:

Peyton said...

Nice article as well as whole site.Thanks.