A Familiar Refrain

"Why are children's books still so white?" we asked on the Fire Escape last year, and the year before. This year, the CCBC released their 2008 statistics about race and children's books, and once again we repeat the question like a mantra.

Keep in mind that recent U.S. Department of Education statistics show that whites make up 56% of total school enrollment, Latinos 21%, blacks 17%, Asian 5%, and Native Americans 1%. Okay, ready? Of the 3,000 or so titles received at the Center:
  • 172 books (or only 6% of all books) had significant African or African American content, with 83 books (less than half) by black book creators, either authors and/or illustrators.

  • 40 books (1.3% of all books) featured American Indian themes, topics, or characters, with 9 of them (less than a quarter) created by American Indian authors and/or illustrators.

  • 98 (3% of all books) had significant Asian/Pacific or Asian/Pacific American content, and 77 of these (82% of Asian/Pacific-content books) were created by authors and/or illustrators of Asian/Pacific heritage.

  • 79 books had significant Latino content, slightly more than 2% of all books, despite enrollment statistics showing that more than 20% of the country’s students are Latino. 48 of these (60% of all Latino-content books) were created by Latino authors and/or illustrators.
As you reflect on the trends and changes highlighted above, listen to the suggestion made by CCBC scholars Kathleen T. Horning, Merri V. Lindgren, Tessa Michaelson, and Megan Schliesman:
We know that there are editors and publishers who care deeply about ensuring a continual output of wonderful new books that reflect the lives of children and teenagers today, but we also know that their passion for publishing multicultural literature cannot always carry the day in meetings with bottom-line number crunchers wanting to know whether such books will sell. We hope that librarians, teachers, caregivers, parents, and others will use their purchasing power to help committed editors and publishers make a convincing argument.