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Last updated: May 2, 2023
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From where does the CCBC get the books it counts?
In its role as a book examination center serving Wisconsin librarians and teachers, the CCBC receives review copies of new books published for children and teens from most of the large U.S. trade book publishers, and a number of mid-size and smaller trade publishers, most in the U.S., some in Canada.
Do you get everything published each year?
No. We believe our numbers represent a significant sampling of publishing for youth each year. However, it’s not everything, and here’s why: We get many but not all books from the large corporate publishers (also known as the Big 5); and books from some of the midsize and smaller publishers. We also get some self-published books. We don’t have an accurate estimate of the total number of new books published for children and teens each year (by “new” we mean books that aren’t reprints) because the number can vary depending on what publishers and what kinds of books are counted (e.g, Should every book in a formulaic series be included? Should self-published books be included? Should educational publishing be included?) , and there isn’t a complete list of every new book published for children and teens from every publisher against which we can check what we receive. The percentages calculated from our data apply to the books we received and are best used to convey an overall picture of representation in books published for children and teens, not exact percentages for publishing as a whole.
We will make every effort to respond quickly, but allow up to five business days in case we need to converse with you.
*If you are a student using our data for coursework (e.g, research paper), permission is not required as long as you have read these Diversity Statistics FAQs and as long as your work will not be published or publicly presented. Please contact us with any questions.
We are committed to making sure that the complexity, nuance, and context essential when communicating this data is provided. To that end, before granting permission we will ask you to read these Diversity Statistics FAQs in their entirety; this critical first step can also can save time by helping you avoid errors.
What factors should I consider in comparing numbers from year to year?
First, it is important to note the number of books we receive can change from year to year, so converting these annual numbers to percentages is most telling.
Second, as our work continues to gain greater visibility, we may be sent books we might not have received in the past. For example, in recent years some publishers outside the realm of traditional trade books are now sending us their titles because they are aware that we are maintaining these statistics.
Third, publishing trends have an impact. For example, in recent years we have seen more original paperback series coming into the CCBC featuring diverse characters.
Finally, our analysis continues to evolve, thanks largely to the feedback we receive from people using the statistics, and other experts. Additionally, we now check Kirkus Reviews to find out from the review if a longer book we haven’t read includes a character of color. We might have missed logging books like this in the past. Similarly we were once likely to count a book with a brown-skinned child in one of the four categories, most often as Black/African, whereas now we track books with brown-skinned characters in which there is no apparent indication of the characters’ specific race or ethnicity separately and do not count them as part of these statistics. Beginning with the 2019 publishing year, we are counting Pacific Islander as a category separate from Asian (which was Asian/Pacific prior to 2019).
Why is it so important I include the date I accessed the data when citing your statistics?
We get books on a daily basis at the CCBC. While the majority of these are book published in the current year, we occasionally get books from the previous publishing year, which means data on our web site may change. Knowing when you accessed your data will explain numerical discrepancies if someone viewing your data and our website at a later date see differences.
Do your statistics include books published for young adults?
Yes. We document the content of every book we receive, which includes titles published for children and titles published for teens/young adults. We don’t distinguish between the two in our analysis, however, because the determination of whether a title is a “young adult” book is not always easy to make. In some cases, a publisher imprint may focus on young adult publishing; at other times, the determination of whether a book is “young adult” or for young adults is up to the reviewer/librarian/teacher/reader. We leave that determination up to the individual.
When do your statistics come out every year?
The statistics for the previous year are usually released in mid to late March.
What criteria do you use to count a book as “by” or “about” when you document books by/about Black, Indigenous and People of Color?
We count a book as “about” if the main character/subject is Black, Indigenous and/or a Person of Color (BIPOC). If we are able to determine that a BIPOC character or real person is featured significantly in the book, we also count it as “about,” even if the main character is white. Multiracial characters/subjects are counted as “About” in each BIPOC race/ethnicity category with which their identity aligns (e.g., an Afro-Japanese character is counted as “About” for both Black/African and Asian).* We do not count a book if the principal character is white and there are a range of secondary characters, including characters of color, but none of the characters of color seem to play a significant role. This is, of course, somewhat subjective; we discuss as a staff books that we can’t easily discern. We do not want to misrepresent a book as having multicultural content; likewise, we make every effort not to miss those that do.
We also count a book as “about” if it contains significant cultural content or topics related to a specific culture. For example, an informational book about Dia de los Muertos would be counted in the Latine category; an informational book about the country of Nigeria would be counted in the Black/African category; a novel set in India would be counted in the Asian category.
We count a book as “by” if at least one of the primary creators (author, illustrator) is Black, Indigenous and/or a Person of Color. Multiracial individuals are counted in each BIPOC race/ethnicity category with which their identity aligns.* (For example, an Afro-Cuban individual would be counted in both the Black/African and Latine categories.)
*In the CCBC Diversity Statistics Book Search, “By” aligns to the “Author” and “Illustrator” categories. We include “white” as a race/heritage field in those categories; however, it’s important to note that when a book creator is multiracial and one of those races is white, we only identify the BIPOC aspects of identity as we do not want to mistakenly count a multiracial person who identifies as BIPOC as white.
Do the “by” numbers represent the number of individual BIPOC book creators?
No, the number of books we document each year created by authors and illustrators who are Black, Indigenous and/or or People of Color does not represent the number of individual book creators in those categories—often a single individual has written or illustrated more than one book published in a given year.
Additionally, multiracial creators are counted in all applicable BIPOC categories (e.g., an Afro-Latine creator would be counted in both the Black/African and Latine categories.)
Do the “about” numbers include all the books “by”?
No. Not every book created by an author or illustrator of color, counted in the “by” category, contains cultural content. An illustrator or author/illustrator may have done a book featuring animal characters, for example.
Additionally, if a book about an African American family is illustrated by a Chinese American illustrator, it would be counted as “by” in the Asian category, and “about” in the Black/African category. If the author of the book is Black, then the book would also be counted in the “by” category for Black/African.
It’s also important to note that books in the “about” category may include books with white authors and/or illustrators; as long as at least one of the creators is BIPOC it will be counted in all applicable BIPOC categories.
Why don't percentages total 100 percent when I add them?
Across our data categories, it’s important to know that while it’s useful to look at each number as a percentage of the whole, combined percentages won’t add up to 100%.
Percentages within a category won’t add up to 100% for two reasons. First, a book may have characters or content that means it will be counted more than once within a category. For example, a book with an Afro-Latine main character is counted in both Black/African and Latine for Primary Character/Subject and Diversity Subject (“About”). If that Afro-Latine character is one of two main characters and the other is white, it will be counted as Black/African and Latine for Primary Character/Subject, but it will also be counted as “white” for Primary Character/Subject. If that Afro-Latine character lives in Japan, it will also be counted as “Asian” in the Diversity Subject category. So a single book can be counted two or three or more times, depending on what we are documenting in a category. (As with the creator categories, we count multiracial characters in each race/ethnicity category with which their identity aligns with the exception of white, as we don’t want to mistakenly count a mixed-race character who is BIPOC as white.)
Second, a book may not be counted in a category at all if it doesn’t have content that aligns to what we are documenting for that specific category. For example, a book may not have a Primary Character/Subject at all, or content that fits a Diversity Subject that we document (e.g, an informational book about electricity wouldn’t be documented in either of those categories). While books not counted in a category are reflected in the total number we analyze, they are not reflected in the totals for every category.
Across all of our data, it’s important to look at each percentage on its own or in comparison to other percentages in that category rather than assuming the percentages will total 100. It’s also important not to total percentages—or number of books—in a category and assume that percentage/number represents individual books, or subtract that number from 100 and assume the difference is the percentage/number of all other books we received. As noted above, some books are counted more than once as we document their content, because diverse books today (far more than in the past) often reflect multifaceted aspects of identity and diversity in the lives of children and teens.
Can you explain what you look at for “Primary Character/Subject” and how it differs from “Diversity Subject”?
For “Primary Character/Subject,” we look only at a book’s primary character(s) or, in the case of nonfiction, primary human subject(s). We do not consider secondary characters (even if they are significant) or non-human topics such as settings or holidays.
“Diversity Subject” (“About” in our charts) looks at diverse representation in a book from a broader lens. In considering a book’s Diversity Subject, we look at a book’s primary character(s)/subject(s), significant secondary character(s)/subject(s), and topics related to a specific culture. For example, a book with a white primary character and a significant Black secondary character would be counted as having a “Black/African” Diversity Subject; a biography of Wilma Mankiller has an “Indigenous” Diversity Subject; a book about Dia de los Muertos has a “Latine” Diversity Subject; an informational book about the island of Tonga has a “Pacific Islander” diversity subject; a novel set in India has an “Asian” Diversity Subject; and so on.
How do you determine the race or ethnicity of an author or illustrator?
We use many methods for determining this information, including author/illustrator bios; publisher and author/illustrator websites; interviews. Sometimes we consult with committee chairs regarding a book’s eligibility for awards such as Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, American Indian Library Association (AILA), and Asian/Pacific American Library Association (APALA). We also sometimes ask publishers, or the authors or illustrators themselves how they identify.
It seems like your categories vary from identity to geography, especially when moving beyond your annual statistics to the categories in your searchable databases. Can you explain?
That’s a great question, and the answer is complicated. First and foremost, in terms of our annual diversity statistics, how people identify themselves is most important to us. And we continue to learn what that means in terms of this work as we try to document what is happening in terms of books and creators reflecting the diversity of our communities and country.
Case in point: We have added two additional distinct broad categories in the past two years, Arab (2020) and Pacific Islander (2019) (formerly captured in a broader “Asian/Pacific” category). (We have subsequently updated numbers from 2018 onward to capture these two categories.) This was a direct result of being educated by people from those groups. “Arab” is a label that applies to people across several geographic regions, including the Arab diaspora; Pacific Islander is grounded in a single geographic region and its diaspora. But we have learned these are distinct broad heritage identities that it’s disrespectful to ignore.
At the same, time, in terms of our searchable databases, we also want to capture information that will be helpful for those looking to identify and perhaps conduct their own analysis of books that are, say, set in the Middle East. So in terms of the searchable databases, we are thinking in terms of Heritage/Region.
Your racial categories are broad--why don’t you document specific identities, such as Japanese American, Mexican American, etc?
We do also document cultural specificity for individual books and creators, but it’s not possible for us to summarize it succinctly in this format, which is meant to provide a broad overview of our numbers. So a book about a Cuban American child will be reflected in the Latine numbers, while the information we capture for the specific book will include the fact that the main character is Cuban American. Books with multiracial and multiethnic characters will be noted as such, and included in the numbers for each aspect of identity, so that a single book with an Afro-Latine character will be reflected in both the African/African American and Latine “about” numbers. As a result, an individual book may be counted more than once across the broad categories.
Can I calculate the number of #OwnVoices books from your statistics?
No, it is not possible to calculate the number of #OwnVoices books from these numbers alone. As noted above, the “by” and “about” relationship is too variable to make direct correlations from these numbers to #OwnVoices. Additionally, #OwnVoices is a term whose meaning is tied to culturally specific identity and experience, which is not captured in these broad categorizations. The information we document for each book regarding culturally specific content, and for book creators documenting their culturally specific identities, is necessary to determine if that book might be categorized as #OwnVoices. It is also important to note that the way in which individuals interpret the meaning of #OwnVoices may vary.
If you are looking for information to do your own #OwnVoices analysis of our data based on how you define the term, you will need to use our Diversity Statistics Book Search, which allows searching by broad heritage groups for creators and primary character/subject for books we’ve received since 2018.
Are all of the books you count accurate and authentic regarding the experiences they portray about Black, Indigenous and People of Color?
No! We are simply documenting the books we receive, and they have not been evaluated for quality. The content of all of the books we receive and count each year varies widely with regard to accuracy and authenticity. If you are looking for recommended books by and about Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color, we encourage you to start with the children’s literature awards and recommended lists created by organizations and individuals who work to educate and promote accurate, authentic portrayals of these experiences. There are many identity-based organizations, as well as culturally informed critics, evaluating and recommending books.
Do the numbers of books you document that are about BIPOC characters/people mean the remaining books are all about white people?
No, and it’s important this assumption not be made.
The remaining books include picture books, fiction, and non-fiction about a vast number of subjects. Some of them include characters or subjects who are white people, some of them are about brown-skinned characters with no cultural or racial specificity. BUT there are also numerous books we receive every year that are about anthropomorphized animal characters, as well as picture books with characters that are trucks, crayons, dragons, etc. Additionally, there are also books included in the overall number we receive that are about science, or nature, or other topics that have no “characters” to be counted.
Additionally, as noted above about percentages not adding up to 100, some books are counted more than once depending on content–a book may have both a Black and a white main character, for example.
What we know from being immersed in children’s and young adult literature each and every day is that white characters are not—and never have been—lacking in books for children and teens.
The Diversity Statistics Book Search allows users to do a more detailed analysis in the Primary or Secondary character/subject categories to calculate percentages of “white” or “animal” or “other” or “none” (no character/human subject).
What about other aspects of identity beyond race and ethnicity—are you documenting those?
Beginning with the 2018 publishing year, we embarked on an intensive effort to document the content of every book coming into the library (Prior to 2018, we only documented the books by or about Blacks, Indigenous and People of Color) and to include an analysis of disability, religion, LGBTQ+ and gender as well as race/ethnicity.
This will enable a more complex analysis not only of the content of the books included in these numbers, but also of books that are not by or about Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color. For example, we can identify how many books we received had gay or lesbian main characters; how many were contemporary versus historical fiction, or picture books versus non-fiction. We can identify how many had main characters who were white, or animals as opposed to people, and much more.
How do you categorize books by and about Muslims?
As noted above, since 2018 we have been including religion as one of the categories we document. Since Muslim people cross all racial/ethnic categories, for the purposes of these race/ethnicity statistics, books are assessed individually and counted accordingly. So a book by/about Pakistani Muslims is counted in Asian, a book about a Black Muslim in the United States as Black/African, a book about a Somali Muslim as Black/African and Arab, and so on.
I’m doing research and would like examine some of the books you analyzed. How can I see them?
The CCBC is a non-circulating library, which means we don’t loan out the books in our collection.
If you are doing the research where you live or work, we suggest using your local public and/or academic library and interlibrary loan to obtain copies of titles in which you’re interested from other libraries.
We also welcome researchers interested in coming to the CCBC. However, it’s important to know that the books we analyze each year are in our “Current” Collection, which includes review copies of new and recently published books; we keep these books 12 to 18 months. Selected titles then become part of our Basic Collection; the others are withdrawn and no longer available for examination at the CCBC. (More on CCBC collections)
To make sure a trip to the CCBC is worth your effort, please contact us well in advance of your visit to discuss your plans. (See our “Visiting the CCBC” page for more information.)
How long have you been documenting diversity in children’s and young adult literature?
We began documenting books by and about African Americans in 1985. That year, then-CCBC director Ginny Moore Kruse was serving as a member of the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, and we were appalled to learn that, of the approximately 2,500 trade books that were published in 1985, only 18 were created by African Americans and thus eligible for the Coretta Scott King Award. This began our efforts to document the numbers of books by Black authors and illustrators annually. We used the CCBC’s collection of review copies received in its role as a statewide book examination center in conjunction with information from the Coretta Scott King Award Task Force of the American Library Association to document the number of books by and about African Americans published annually.
Beginning in 1994 we also began keeping track of the numbers of books we were receiving by Asian/Pacific, Indigenous and Latine book creators as well. We also began documenting not only the number of books created by Black, Indigenous and People of Color, but the number of books about Black, Indigenous and People of Color, including the many titles that have been created by white authors and/or illustrators.
Some of the terminology we use has changed across the years in our continuing effort to reflect the changing terminology and preferences of those whose identities we are documenting, especially as reflected in the current discourse and opinions of content experts from those identity groups in our field, but our overall goal of providing an eye-opening look at books for children teens through the critical lens of diversity has not.
Are there others doing this kind of work?
The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in Great Britain began to keep diversity statistics for the U.K. in 2017, modeled on the CCBC’s statistics.
In the United States, our work quantifying the content of books published each year is, to our knowledge, unique. It’s critical to understand, however, that Black, Indigenous and People of Color have been leading efforts to call for more diverse voices, and authentic representation, in literature for youth for decades. Their work has educated us, and continues to inform us. Their work is how the Coretta Scott King Award, and other identity-based book awards, were established. It’s why the seminal Interracial Books for Children’ Bulletin began. It’s the reason librarian Pura Belpré became an author and, later, an award was established in her name. Today, the activism and advocacy continues through the work of individuals such as Edith Campbell, Sarah Park Dahlen, Zetta Elliott, Laura Jiménez, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and many others, as well as organizations like Teaching for Change, We Need Diverse Books and others.
What are your takeaways from doing this across the years?
Among the key things we have noted:
- After a long period of stagnancy, we began to see signs of positive change in 2014/2015, right around the time We Need Diverse Books was established. By 2020, the numbers of books we received about BIPOC characters and by BIPOC authors and illustrators had tripled. This is encouraging and, if this trend continues, we may soon see a world in which publishing for children and teens reflects the rich diversity of perspectives and experiences within and across race and culture.
- The more books there are, especially books created by BIPOC authors and illustrators, the more opportunities librarians, teachers, parents, and other adults have of finding outstanding books for young readers and listeners that reflect dimensions of their lives, and give a broader understanding of who we are as a nation.
- We are seeing more books that reflect the multifaceted complexity of individual lives when it comes to identity; for example, books in which characters are not a single race or ethnicity, or even biracial, but multiracial/multiethnic; and more complex and nuanced portrayals that reveal intersectional identites, as well many other aspects of identity, interest and experience beyond race and ethnicity. It should be noted this has always been present in authentic literature, but the recent rise in numbers means we are seeing more books, and therefore greater diversity within and across specific groups.
- Small, independently owned publishers, such as Lee & Low, Just Us Books, and Groundwood contribute significantly to the body of authentic multicultural literature for children in the United States and Canada. The commitment of individual editors at both large and small publishing houses also has made an impact. More recently, initiatives such as We Need Diverse Books have had an incredible impact as the voices of BIPOC authors, illustrators and critics of color lead the call for change. Social media has also been a major change agent, allowing the discussion to remain at the forefront of our collective attention in the fields of children’s and young adult literature, because of the Black, Indigenous and People of Color who continue to advocate for change.
- Children’s book awards that recognize excellence in books created by and about BIPOC are also important. Visit our Awards and Best-of-the-Year Lists for links to multicultural literature awards and other resources.
- We can all make a difference by purchasing and sharing books by BIPOC creators in our professional and personal lives. Publishing is a business, and sales matter. The books themselves matter to children and teens, who deserve to see the rich diversity of their lives and the world in which they live reflected in the books around them each and every day.
- While numbers are important, they are far from the only important thing to consider when it comes to multicultural publishing for children and teens. The books themselves matter. And every year we see amazing books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published. There just aren’t enough of them.
Can I get the list of books you have counted and based the statistics on?
You can use the Diversity Statistics Book Search here on our web site to search books we counted beginning with the 2018 publishing year. Your search can be exported in .xml format (can be opened with Excel, or Numbers for Mac).
For years before 2018, we have Word documents listing the books we have have documented and we are happy to share them with researchers.
How do people and organizations use the data you compile?
The data has been cited in numerous articles about diversity—and lack of diversity—in publishing for children and teens; it has also been cited in the work of researchers and activists working for greater diversity and authenticity in books for young people.
Can I suggest a change?
We are always open to new information and ideas, and many of the changes we have made over the years have started with an email from someone with a question or suggestion. When we are contacted, we seek additional input and feedback from other cultural insiders, as we know there are often varied and sometimes differing opinions. As a general rule we don’t make changes quickly, as we want to consider as much input as possible, along with its impact on past and future data. Ultimately, our goal is to be as respectful as possible. Please contact the CCBC at ccbcinfo at education.wisc.edu if you have a suggestion or feedback you’d like us to consider.