Behind the scenes in the library world, many book professionals (CA Librarians included) check regularly on data from the publishing world. One organization I enjoy looking in on from time to time is the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (CCBC). This organization collects statistics on books published for children in an annual diversity audit. The purpose is to record the number of books published in a year and see how many, for example, are about people of color, and within that number, how many of those books are created by authors and illustrators who are people of color. Take a look at the CCBC Diversity Statistics and see how things have changed over time, with more representation of our increasingly diverse communities in children’s literature. As you can see, the progress has been slow, but it is happening. With our country becoming more and more diverse, we hope to see these numbers increase, so we have more diverse authors and illustrators writing their stories for all readers.
Many library and book professionals use the phrase “Own Voices” to describe some of the books that are highlighted in the CCBC Diversity Statistics. Own Voices books are books written and illustrated by and about underrepresented and marginalized people, creating an authentic story and experience for the reader. So often throughout literary history, the stories of the underrepresented have been told by a group other than their own. It’s important for students to have their own experiences reflected in a story (a mirror), and equally important for readers to meet characters, experiences, and places that are different from their own (a window). What better way to do that than through the words and pictures of people who have lived experiences to share and can tell stories in their own authentic and unique voices?
In 2016, the City of Denver made an important change to its calendar, officially removing Columbus Day and transforming the second Monday in October to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Many local activists had been working towards this change for a long time, and it finally became official. To celebrate this important day and lift up those who have often been underrepresented in our communities, the Library Department would like to share some Own Voices books from our two libraries that are written and illustrated by Indigenous authors and illustrators.
And, please stay tuned! The Colorado Academy Library team will be sharing many books throughout the school year that will act as mirrors and windows for the CA community. Don’t forget to be on the lookout for our book displays as well.