Diversity in Kidlit

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Own voices.  We Need Diverse Books. – the conversation about diversity in kidlit is growing and hopefully gaining momentum. I had the amazing opportunity to hear Cynthia Leitich Smith speak on this topic at the Kansas/Missouri SCBWI conference and she had great ideas and advice.

As a former teacher and school counselor, I have been a proponent of diversity in children’s literature for a long time. But as a cisgender middle class white woman, I didn’t know how I could help promote own voices. Cynthia gave me some ideas.

First READ own voices books yourself. Immerse yourself in the cultures of others and try to learn all you can. Become familiar with own voices authors and their works. Not only will you gain understanding of cultures, you will be able to have an educated conversation about great books.

Second promote the READING of own voices books by everyone. Do what you can to recommend, gift, share, diverse books with all culture groups. If you have the financial means, make a gift of Own Voices books to your local school or public library. If you can’t donate – REQUEST own voices books for purchase. Also request own voices speakers to visit your library. Public requests can increase diverse book purchases and awareness.

Cynthia challenged writers to read at least 100 books by own voices before ever writing about a person outside your culture.  Reading 200 would be better! It’s a challenge I am going to take. Not because I plan to write outside my culture, but because I want to learn about others.

I hope you will join me on my quest! And Please let me know about your favorite #ownvoices books.

Need a place to start? Here are some great lists.

Diversity in Kidlit Presented as everyday

Diversity books for young children

Diversity books for YA


Make Some Friends

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Everybody wants to know how to get ahead in the writing world.  Should I have a blog? Get a million twitter followers? Send presents to the editors? The truth is there are only two things that will help you as a writer. The first is to learn to be the very best writer you can be. Go to classes, conferences, and retreats. Learn all you can, revise, rewrite, and create amazing manuscripts. If you have done that, then there is only one more thing to do.

Make some friends!

We need friends who are in our profession and understand why it takes longer than six weeks to get a book published. We need friends who will rejoice when we get a “good” rejection letter. And we definitely need friends who will break open the champagne when we make that sale.

Our writing buddies are also our peer network. Connections you make at conferences can actually lead to jobs in the future.Writing is a business just like accounting, engineering, or real estate. Yes, it is a creative business and we writers are known for hiding in our garrets bleeding onto the paper, but in reality, we need to make connections. We need to network, just like any other business person.

Writers and editors share names of their contacts and refer business to people they know and trust. That writer sitting next to you at the conference may know an editor who is looking for free-lancers. That friend in your critique group may introduce you to the agent of your dreams.  If you aren’t a part of the writing community, you are missing out on support, fun, and quite possibly jobs! Make some writing friends. It will help you in ways you never imagined


We Need Diverse Books AND MORE!!


This is an important week for appreciating and sharing the diversity of the United States of America. On Monday we celebrate a true hero of diversity – Martin Luther King Jr. and on Friday we inaugurate our 45th president. What an excellent time for all of us to pause and reflect on the progress we have made, and the work we still need to do.

America is certainly not a perfect country and we have a long way to go before we truly meet standards of equality. BUT I am encouraged by the number of people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. If you – as a writer or educator are looking for places to plug-in, I’m listing just a few of the fine programs and organizations that are worth your time.


Celebrate the wonderful books and lessons that can be learned through Multicultural Children’s Book Day . Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom have teamed up to create an ambitious (and much-needed) national event. On January 27th, Jump into a Book and Pragmatic Mom will be presenting the first ever Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.



WNDB – We Need Diverse Books – If you are a writer this is a fantastic program to encourage the development of books from diverse view points. Click on the icon to go to the newsletter and find out all about the program.



name The Founders of NAME envisioned an organization that would bring together individuals and groups with an interest in multicultural education from all levels of education, different academic disciplines and from diverse educational institutions and occupations.


Research and learn how you can make our world a better place for all citizens!

Girl Power!


It’s Girl Power Month!! Otherwise known as Women’s History month. And it’s time to bring out all those fantastic books about GIRL POWER! I’ve got some great lists of books to use in the classroom plus some really fun facts about women in history. Come on teachers – let’s celebrate women’s history!

Fun Facts
One of the greatest spies in World War II was a woman. Nancy Wake was known as The White Mouse and was one of the Gestapo’s most wanted spies with a 5 million-franc price on her head.

A woman was the ruler of one of the largest empress in the history of the world.  At one Queen Victoria’s empire included land on nearly every continent.  She ruled from Britain to India, Australia to Canada, South Africa to Egypt, and even controlled Hong Kong.  It was said that the sun never set on the British Empire.

The world’s first Novel was written by a woman. The Tale of Genji was published in Japan around 1000CE.  It was written by Murasaki Shikibu and was a story about life in royal Japanese court.

Nan’yehi was woman warrior for the Cherokee Nation.  When her husband was killed during battle in 1775, she took his place and led the Cherokee to victory.

Some Great Books!!!
Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh
Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born on July 4, 1868, and she changed the course of astronomyherietta when she was just twenty-five years old. Henrietta spent years measuring star positions and sizes from photographs taken by the telescope at the Harvard College Observatory, where she worked. After Henrietta observed that certain stars had a fixed pattern to their changes, her discovery made it possible for astronomers to measure greater and greater distances—leading to our present understanding of the vast size of the universe.

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea By Robert Burleigh
Marie Tharp was always fascinated by the ocean. Taught to think big by her father who wassolving-the-puzzle-e1457211817862 a mapmaker, Marie wanted to do something no one had ever done before: map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Was it even possible? Not sure if she would succeed, Marie decided to give it a try.

Check out these book lists!
Disrupters, Daredevils, and Artists: Women Who Changed the World


21+ Children’s Books about Women Scientists


Kirkus list of great books for Women’s History Month



International Kid Lit Quiz

  1. Whose nickname as a student was Padfoot?Quiz%20Bowl
  2. What colour was the highly sought after and prized Arkenstone?
  3. Erasers are wolf-like creatures that go after children in what book?
  4. Who was the sparkly fish that gave away his scales?
  5. What bird’s singing, according to Hans Christian Andersen, brought tears to the Chinese Emperor’s heart?
  6. Who is Geronimo Stilton’s sister, the one that loves traveling and having adventures around the world?
  7. Where in space did four children land and leave a ‘Hello Dad!’ message in Frank Cottrell’s Boyce’s book Cosmic?
  8. What day of the week did Thor give his name to?
  9. What country forced its citizens to sign a Treaty of Treason?
  10. Who was the television-obsessed boy that visited Mr Wonka’s factory?
Can you answer these question?  The kids competing in the International Kid Lit Quiz can. hpThese are the easy questions!
Never heard of the International Kid Lit Quiz? You are definitely missing out!  Its like a traditional quiz bowl but it focuses on children’s literature and it’s world wide! It is open to students 10-13 years of age and this year’s national winners are invited to compete in the World Final in Auckland New Zealand.  The new World Wide champions will be crowned in August.
While it’s too late to enter this year’s competition it’s just the right time to start a team in your school. What better way to get students enthused about reading?  Start a school wide competition and maybe your students will be competing in the next International Kids Lit Quiz!
Meanwhile try some more of the practice questions:
  1. Annabeth is the daughter of which Greek goddess?
  2. Who would demand retaliation for any minor crime committed by a passing traveller such as picking a rose?
  3. The book Small Steps introduced the readers to which two characters from Holes: Percy-Jackson-percy-jackson-and-the-olympians-books-8244426-1024-768Zero, X-Ray, Armpit or Stanley?
  4. Which fictional primate was known as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’?
  5. Characters from which book literally jump out of the pages?
  6. Who ordered all of the spindles in his kingdom to be burnt?
  7. Who was the American boy that supposedly had the reputation of never telling a lie?
  8. What type of creature was a Psammead?
  9. What is special about this sentence: Never odd or even?
  10. What word in English is the most common spoken word?
  1. Athena sleep
  2. The Beast
  3. Armpit and X-Ray
  4. King Kong
  5. Inkheart
  6. Sleeping Beauty’s father
  7. George Washington
  8. Sand fairy
  9. It’s a palindrome – reads the same both ways
  10. The
Oh and the answers to the first ten questions – right here-ranbow
  1. Sirius Black
  2. White
  3. Maximum Ride (accept The Angel Experiment)
  4. Rainbow Fish
  5. The Nightingale
  6. Thea
  7. The MoonThursday
  8. Panem
  9. Mike Teevee

Books for Black History Month


Betsy Bird has just published an updated African-American Experience Children’s LiteracyKnockKnock-231x300 Guide.  This is a great list of books that you need to have in your school library.  Compare this list to your schools holdings and see what you need to add.  February is the perfect month to look at the diversity of the books in your collection.

You can see the complete list at schlibjourn:






Here’s a sampling of the picture book list:

Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David Adler, illustrated by Sam Ricks, ISBN: 9780606368001

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ISBN: 9780316209175

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha, illustrated Nicole Tadgell, ISBN: 9780807547823

Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer by Tonya Bolden illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: pie9781419707926

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9780670012855

Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by Don Tate, ISBN: 9781570917004

Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780399233425max

Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers, ISBN: 9780399166150

Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub, ISBN: 9780525428091

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson, ISBN: 9780399257742

Sunday Shopping by Sally Derby, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, ISBN: 9781600604386

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd danceCooper, ISBN: 9780399252846

Red, Yellow, Blue (and a Dash of White Too) by C.G. Esperanza, ISBN: 9781629146249

Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9780312603267

Underground by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781596435384

We March by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781596435391



World Read Aloud Day


Celebrate World Read Aloud Day by having an author read to your class for free! WRADAmazing Author Kate Messner, has organized a group of traditionally published authors who are willing to read to your class via skype on February 24.  All you have to do is sign up.  And it’s FREE! Absolutely FREE!

Just go to her website and pick out one of the authors.  Kate has done all the leg work by finding authors who are willing to read. You just have to click on the author’s link and request a time that will work for you.  You can even sign up for multiple authors!

And if you are wondering – yes – I’m one of the volunteer “readers” and I’d love to visit your class!