It finally feels like autumn is here and if you don’t mind us saying, we’ve been “fall-ing” for all the diversity-related stories that have been in the news recently! Here are a few that we were especially excited to read:Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ rights to education, and Indian children’s right activist Kailash Satyarthi, both won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their fight against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education. In light of the recent violence that has broken out between India and Pakistan along the border of the disputed, mainly Muslim region of Kashmir, the Nobel Peace Prize committee said it was an “important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”
On this blog we’ve often discussed our own New Voices and New Visions awards for unpublished authors of color. Today we wanted to spotlight another great award specifically for authors of color: the On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
The On-The-Verge Emerging Voices Award is a grant created to “foster the emergence of diverse voices in children’s books.” It offers two writers or writer/illustrators from under-represented backgrounds the chance to receive:
- An all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles August 1-4, 2015 (transportation and hotel)
- Tuition to the SCBWI Summer Conference
- A manuscript consultation at the Summer Conference with an industry professional
- An additional meeting with an industry professional
- Tuition to the Summer Conference Writers or Illustrators Intensive
- A press release
We interviewed Lin Oliver, Executive Director of SCBWI, about the creation of the award and the role of SCBWI in diversifying the world of children’s book publishing.
Back in June, Laura Reiko Simeon wrote about how race is handled in Swedish picture books. We’re thrilled to host Laura again as she sheds light on how Swedish picture books handle gender and gender-ambiguous characters.
You sit down with your favorite 4-year-old to read a sweet, wordless picture book featuring a little duck swimming down the river. Quickly, without thinking too hard, what pronoun do you use to describe the duck? Do you say, “Look at him paddle past that shaggy dog!” or “What does she see in the sky?”
If you were like the mothers in a 1985 study, you would use masculine pronouns for 95% of animal characters with no gender-specific characteristics. A follow-up study from 1995 examined children’s use of pronouns and found that by age 7 they had absorbed and were repeating these same gender stereotypes. Listen to those around you: has it changed much since then?
In the US, Sweden is widely regarded as a leader in gender equality, although many Swedes still see a need for greater progress. Meanwhile, our own biases are apparent, for example when we consider gendered toys. Compare this 1981 Lego ad, with its blue jeans and t-shirt-clad girl to the pink-infused products targeted at girls today. As with other social issues, picture books reflect concerns in society at large – but how they’ve done so is dramatically different in the US as compared to Sweden.