Checklist: 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection

It’s not easy to create an inclusive book collection. Whether you’re a librarian creating a collection for an entire community, a teacher creating a collection for your classroom, or a parent creating a collection for your children, choosing books that reflect the diversity of human experience can be a challenging job.

That’s because creating a diverse book collection is about more than just making sure X, Y, and Z are represented. It’s not a matter of ticking off check boxes or making sure quotas are filled. For those committed to doing it right, building a diverse book collection requires contemplation, research, and awareness. But the rewards are great: a truly diverse collection of books can turn children into lifelong readers and promote empathy, understanding, and self-confidence.

Book covers

To make things a little easier, we’ve created a checklist to help.
Here are eight steps to all-inclusive reading:

  1. Does your book list or collection include books with characters of color? LGBTQ? Differently-abled?
  2. Does it include books with a main character of color? LGBTQ? Differently-abled?
  3. Does it include books written or illustrated by a person of color? Of different nationalities, religions or sexual preference?
  4. Are there any books with a person of color on the cover? Do the characters on the book covers accurately reflect the characters in the book?
  5. Think about your student population. Does your list provide a mix of “mirror” books and “window” books for your students—books in which they can see themselves reflected and books in which they can learn about others?
  6. Think about the subject matter of your diverse books. Do all your books featuring black characters focus on slavery? Do all your books about Latino characters focus on immigration? Are all your LGBTQ books coming out stories?
  7. Do you have any books featuring diverse characters that are not primarily about race or prejudice?
  8. Consider your classic books, both fiction and nonfiction. Do any contain hurtful racial or ethnic stereotypes , or images (e.g. Little House on the Prairie or The Indian in the Cupboard)? If so, how will you address those stereotypes with students? Have you included another book that provides a more accurate depiction of the same culture?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, here are some resources that can help:

Where can I find great diverse children’s books? A resource list

Beyond Good Intentions: Selecting Multicultural Literature

Seven Ways to Explore Race in the Classroom

How inclusive is my classroom library? A Toolkit

Disability in KidLit

I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Diversity in YA

What questions would you add? What resources would you recommend? As always, leave ‘em in the comments!

*Many thanks to librarian Edith Campbell for her corrections and feedback on our list!

8 Comments

  1. Posted May 23, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I have always loved Children’s Book Press and Lee and Low! Barefoot Books is another wonderful publisher focusing on folktales from people all over the globe! As the mother of a little guy with a genetic syndrome and physical disability, it is so lovely to have books featuring kids wearing leg braces, using wheelchairs, and a story about a little boy who is a bit different written by a woman whose brother has autism. This small, independent publisher has been publishing beautiful books for twenty years and should definitely be on your go-to list for your home or classroom library!

  2. Posted May 23, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I would certainly add Tilbury House Publishers to your list of publishers, too!! Talking Walls and many others are wonderful books!!

  3. Posted May 23, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for a tremendous post. I like how you delve deeper–into the actual subject matter of diverse books. May I suggest adding a diversity of older characters also be well-represented? Unfortunately, too many are portrayed as sick, sad or forgetful–perpetuating our society’s negative stereotypes around aging.

  4. Posted May 23, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Don't Play!.

  5. inventingliz
    Posted May 24, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Another form of diversity to consider is family structure – I’m a single mom by choice through adoption and we are a transracial family – my daughter is Black and I am white – we don’t often see families who look like ours in books!

  6. Posted May 31, 2014 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Very helpful list of awards to consider in considering if our collections meet the criteria for “diverse”

  7. Posted June 2, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    This is a great list of questions – questions that I talk about with educators and parents, but I love that they’re all together in this list. This is a great resource that I’ll be sharing. I also appreciate and agree with the other commenters who suggested adding a diversity of ages as well as a diversity in family structure, e.g. adoption, but not just stories about bringing a baby or child home, rather stories that show adoptive families just as families in the illustrations of books that are not about adoption. Thanks for another great blog post Lee & Low!

  8. LadyRaconteur88
    Posted September 11, 2014 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Polymnia Blues.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] or parent working to create a diverse book collection in your home or school? Don’t miss Lee and Low’s inventory and list of resources to help you along the […]

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  3. […] Have you included another book that provides a more accurate depiction of the same culture? (http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/05/22/checklist-8-steps-to-creating-a-diverse-book-collection/ […]

  4. […] see themselves reflected and books in which they can learn about others.” Lee and Low’s checklist for creating diverse libraries asks the following questions: Do all your books featuring black characters focus on slavery? Do […]

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