It’s no secret that here at Lee & Low Books we value diversity – it is literally why we are in business. But we don’t always get down to the basics. Sharing the low numbers of books by/about people of color is not the same as convincing people we need more of them. Just dip your toes into the comments section of any major article about diversity in children’s books and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
When you don’t convince people that the lack of diversity matters, what you get is more of the same. And in publishing, more of the same pretty much looks like this: BookCon, a major one-day event for readers in New York City, releases a lineup of 31 participating authors…and all of them are white.
BookCon is the latest example and certainly a frustrating one, but it is by no means an isolated incident. It’s heartening to see so many recent articles covering the lack of diversity in children’s books, but the question is how that discussion can be turned into action on a large scale to change things. The status quo – massive underrepresentation of people of color – is like a huge, heavy boulder that needs to be moved. Awareness alone will not move it an inch. What’s required is a lot of people to give it a push.
That’s why I love the new #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign happening this week. Here’s your chance to share with the world why diversity in books matters to you and why you want more of it:
Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:
On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.
For the visual part of the campaign:
- Take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.
- The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs.
- However you want to do it, we want to share it! There will be a Tumblr at http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/ that will host all of the photos and messages for the campaign. Please submit your visual component by May 1st to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.
- Starting at 1:00PM (EST) the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.
- The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a nonstop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.
- The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.
On May 2nd, the second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm (EST) using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.
On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!
We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.
We’re excited to participate in this campaign and hope you will too, beginning with this question:
Why do you need diverse books?