Since 1985, the CCBC has been keeping statistics on the number of children’s books by and about African Americans. For the first two years, the numbers were dismal (just 18 books out of 2,500 published in 1985 and again in 1986). USA Today did a story about it that included one of their handy visuals to illustrate the problem.
The CCBC has been documenting the number of books published by and about people of color and First/Native Nations book creators in various ways for 32 years.
Some of you may have already heard about the CCBC’s expanded effort in our work documenting the number of books by and about people of color and First/Native Nations. This past April at a CCBC staff meeting we came up with the idea of taking a closer look at what is getting published.
Every year around this time for the past 30 years, the CCBC has published the number of books by and about people of color. We started doing this in 1985 when our Director, Ginny Moore Kruse, was on the Coretta Scott King Award Committee and knew that there were only 18 books eligible for the award that year. We were so shocked at that number that we decided to document it in our annual publication, CCBC Choices.
Last week KT Horning tweeted that it would be a great year to be on the Coretta Scott King Award Committee because of all the outstanding novels by African American authors that have been published so far in 2014. At the time, I’d just finished novelist Teresa E. Harris’s terrific debut book, The Perfect Place (Clarion), and had also been thinking about what a great year it’s been for longer books in general by African American authors.
Several years ago, a Korean American colleague of ours was in the CCBC reading the latest picture book by Yumi Heo. She was laughing aloud with nearly every page turn. “Oh, these pictures!” she said. “They’re so Korean and so funny!” We loved the book ourselves but hadn’t found the illustrations to be particularly funny. Or, for that matter, particularly Korean.
It seems every 3-5 years, someone in the press discovers the statistics the CCBC keeps on multicultural literature, and publishes an article about it. This first happened back in 1989 when USA Today did a story on how difficult it was for African-American parents to find books for their children with characters who looked like them.
Last week I posted mid-year statistics about the multicultural landscape in children’s book publishing so far in 2013. Using the review copies in our Current Collection I counted the number of books we’ve received to date (1509) with human characters (1103) as opposed to animal characters or about non-human topics (326), and found that 78.3% are about human beings. Of the 1103 books about people, 124 (or 10.4%) of these were about people of color.
There has been a lively discussion going on over at Read Roger, prompted by Lee & Low asking why the number of multicultural books has stagnated for the past 18 years.