Where do we go from here?
In order to change the white mainstream in children’s literature, it must be acknowledged that this is an effort worthy of making. Acknowledgement of white privilege can be a difficult task due to the fact that many white people are not challenged to think about it, talk about it or accept it. Advocates for change emphasize the need for meaningful conversations about how white privilege shapes children’s literature and what can be done to diversify books and the publishing industry.
In her reflections of what has changed in the last two years of her advocacy for white privilege awareness, Megan Schliesman (2016) points out that she was witnessed “increased attention given to discussion of multicultural literature, race, and racism in children’s and young adult literature.” She also notes the efforts of groups such as We Need Diverse Books, “a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people”. Another example of organizations making change comes from The School Library Journal which has taken steps to diversify their reviewers. They also aim to continue to make progress by making sure reviewers showcase books from a authors and illustrators of diverse backgrounds (Parrot,2016). Self-publishers like Zetta Elliott are taking a stand by writing “about the things that matter most to the members of my community rather than waiting for approval from a gatekeeper who lacks the cultural competence needed to truly appreciate (her) work”. Elliott stresses that “at a moment when 75 percent of whites have no friends of color and public schools are rapidly re-segregating, the need for diverse children’s literature is greater than ever” (Elliott, 2015).
Schliesman (2016) gives credit to activists and allies, but she also credits the internet, social media and the blogosphere for providing a platform for meaningful discussions about race and white privilege in children’s literature and beyond. Social media platforms have also helped to connect individuals and organizations that are working toward encouraging diversity, not only in literature and the publishing industry, but in the many facets in which people of color are underrepresented or misrepresented.
Video: Rudine Sims Bishop on Future Efforts
Elliott, Z. (March 16, 2015). Black authors and self-publishing, Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2015/03/diversity/black-authors-and-self-publishing/#_
Parrott, K. (February 2, 2016). Diversity in Reviews: Behind the Scenes with SLJ’s “Gatekeeper”, Retrieved from http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/2016/02/diversity-in-reviews-behind-scenes-with_2.html
Schliesman, M. (March 8, 2016). The long haul, Retrieved from http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-long-haul.html
We Need Diverse Books. (n.d.). Mission statement. Retrieved from http://weneeddiversebooks.org/mission-statement/