Lack of Diversity in Kids’ Books and How to Fix It

The lack of diversity in children’s literature is a problem that affects all children, especially children from low-income families, who rarely see themselves, their families or their communities in the stories they read.

Teh lack of diversity in kid's booksThe problem is real. In a study last year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed thousands of kids’ books, and found that:

  • only 3.3 percent were about African-Americans
  • only 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans
  • only 1.5 percent were about Latinos
  • a mere 0.6 percent were about American Indians.

The teachers, librarians, mentors and program leaders we work with tell us time and again that one of the biggest challenges they face in helping kids become strong readers is the lack of stories featuring heroes and experiences they can relate to.

The lack of diversity in kids' booksToday, at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting, hosted by President Bill Clinton, I announced First Book’s commitment to create a sustainable solution to this problem by dramatically expanding the market for diversity in children’s literature through The Stories for All Project.

First Book aggregates the voices — and purchasing power — of thousands of educators and program leaders who serve families at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Through The Stories for All Project, we’re showing the publishing industry that there is a strong, viable and vibrant market out there for books like these.

One more important thing: This isn’t just about kids from African-American or Hispanic families being able to read stories about characters who look like them. All kids should have access to stories featuring diverse characters, to see the world in all its true rich variety.  We’re creating this market in order to make diverse content available to kids from low-income families, but once that content exists, it’s available for everyone.

First Book is truly eager to collaborate with everyone interested in  really changing this landscape for all kids.

Add your name to First Book’s email list to receive occasional updates about The Stories for All Project and other ways to get new books into the hands of kids in need.

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Jane Robinson

Jane serves as the chief financial officer for First Book and the First Book Marketplace. In addition to her financial role for First Book, Jane, together with Kyle Zimmer and Chandler Arnold, serves on the executive management team, overseeing all operations and strategic development for the organization.

Posted in Inside First Book
4 comments on “Lack of Diversity in Kids’ Books and How to Fix It
  1. Thanks for the graphic and the information about FB effort to expand diversity in children’s books. I have a question though. Will the authors council be an invitation for new illustrators/writers to come and get involved? Voice their opinion?

    And second, will you be providing matching grants to artists creating their own books or libraries looking to increase book buying power? Thanks

  2. Hi Rob,

    Great questions.

    1. The council will be designed to gain a profile for this work, get word out and encourage authors and illustrators to get involved. Yes, feedback and collaboration from everyone is essential, we believe, and we will likely have an online forum of some kind.

    2. The volume of matching grants is dependent on the amount of funding we can recruit for the project. Right now a fully funded budget allows for 1,500 matching grants ($750,000) to new programs (including library programs) serving diverse populations, to kick start their use of First Book’s distribution channels. We want that activity to get attention so (a) more programs hear about it and know they can get great books from First Book and (b) more local and national funders boost that number.

    We don’t have matching grants in the plan for new authors right now. Thanks for that suggestion and we will think about that.

    Thanks for your thoughtful interest, Rob, and stay tuned.

    All best, Jane

  3. Jean woodard says:

    What about the lack of books featuring children with varying disabilities? Check out the publication from the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council “Disability Awareness Through Language Arts and Literacy” at Some great books are referenced and even includes lesson plans for teachers.

  4. Jocelyn Albernaz says:

    I am currently completing my student teaching practicum. Although I work in a predominantly white school setting, I feel that it is so important to teach all children about diversity. This should begin in the early elementary years. I find that our students are not introduced to books that address diversity until they are in the middle school. I am eager to start to build a library of culturally diverse literature for children. Up until this point, it has been a challenge to locate many.