Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States
Statistics Gathered by the Cooperative Children's Book Center
School of Education,
University of Wisconsin-Madison
In 1985 the Cooperative Children's Book Center began to document the numbers of books published in the United States for children each year which were written and/or illustrated by African Americans. When then-CCBC Director Ginny Moore Kruse served as a member of the Coretta Scott King Award Committee that year, we were appalled to learn that, of the approximately 2,500 trade books that were published that year for children and teens, only 18 were created by African Americans, and thus eligible for the Coretta Scott King Award. Using the CCBC's collection and working in conjunction with the Coretta Scott King Award Task Force of the American Library Association, we have continued to document the number of books each year and to publish this statistic in our annual publication CCBC Choices.
Because of the great ongoing interest in these statistics, in 1994 we began keeping track of the numbers of books by American Indians, Asian/Pacifics and Asian/Pacific Americans, and Latinos as well. We also began documenting not only the number of books created by people of color, but the number of books about them, including the many titles that have been created by white authors and/or illustrators.
The books represented by these numbers are based on everything that comes into the library annually. We receive hardcover and, these days, more and more original paperback trade books typically available for sale to public schools and public libraries, as well as some (but not all) series/formula non-fiction titles (e.g., a "Countries of the World" series including titles such as Kenya and Venezuela). We do not typically receive mass market or gimmick/toy books created for direct-to-consumer sales. Because the CCBC does not receive every trade book published, in 2002 we began providing information on the number of books we do receive each year, on which the statistics are based.
The four broad groupings we use do not represent cultural specificity; we track this in the annual records we keep listing the individual titles. Our Latino log, for example, is organized by specific region and then country or heritage group within it, so a book about a Cuban American child, or a book about or set in the Domincan Republic or Mexico, is recorded as such. A book about Aztec people living in Mexico would be recorded in both the American Indian and Latino logs.
The multicultural content across the books about people of color represented by the numbers we document varies widely with regard to accuracy and authenticity. Additionally, the number of books we document each year created by authors and illustrators of color does not represent the number of individual book creators of color—often a single individual has written or illustrated more than one book published in a given year. And not every book created by an author or illustrator of color, counted in the "by" cateogry, contains cultural content. If it doesn't, it is not included in the "about" number. Likewise, if a book about an African American family is illustrated by a Chinese American illustrator, it would be counted as "by" in the Asian Pacific category, and "about" in the African American category. If the author of the book is Black, then the book would also be counted in the "by" category for Africans and African Americans.
Across the years, we've seen evidence of the importance of small, independently owned publishers as contributors to a significant body of authentic multicultural literature for children in the United States and Canada. We have also noted the importance of children's book awards in calling attention to outstanding work created by and about people of color. We enourage you to visit our multicultural literature page for links to mulitulcultural literarture awards and other resources.
Note: in addition to compiling annual statistics, we also include an essay sharing our observations about the publishing year in the introduction to each edition of CCBC Choices, our annual best of the year list, and this always includes comments on multicultural publishing. (Recent essays.) The statistics below may not always correspond to those in the Choices commentary for that publishing year. Discrepancies occur when we receive books after the deadline for including the numbers in the print publication. The table below represents the most accurate accounting.
Children's Books By and About People of Color Published in the U.S.
Number of Books
By and About People of Color Published in the U.S.
Total Number of
Asian Pacific /
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Total Number of
Total Number of Books