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.