While not limited to this list, diverse books are books that are about people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and people who are part of the LGBTQA community. “…Although 37% of the population of the United States are people of color, only 10% of children’s books published contained multicultural content” (“We Need Diverse Books FAQ”). While that statistic is startling enough, it’s also true that the majority of books that are banned and challenged are diverse books. Today we live in a very tense political climate. Often these conversations can turn into shouting matches. People will dismiss someone on the grounds of his or her political alliance as opposed to actually listening to what the other side has to say. A book can present ideas in a way that having a conversation with someone cannot. If the reader enjoys a story, he or she will engage with its ideas. Children from all groups need to be reading about children who are unlike them. With this exposure, children can understand that not everyone experiences life in the same way, and this creates empathy toward others.
As Naidoo states in “The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children”, “When children never see their culture represented in a library storytime or in materials on the library shelves, they receive a resounding message that the librarian does not think their culture is important enough to feature in the library” (Naidoo, 2014, p. 3). If a collection is missing materials on a certain culture or community, then the result is twofold. One, young patrons of that community may feel excluded from the collection, and two, young patrons outside of that community may believe the excluded community is not worthy of representation. The quality of materials is important as well. Even if a collection does contain diverse materials, if these materials contain stereotypes or misinformation then they will do more harm than good.
The beauty of a properly diverse collection is that it helps young patrons develop an understanding and appreciation for communities they may or may not be a part of, “By including diversity in its programs and collections, the library has the potential for helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop the skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society” (Naidoo, 2014, p. 5). As communication technology continues to improve, young patrons will increasingly find themselves exposed to new cultures and communities. A diverse collection will help to prepare them for that future.
Naidoo, J. C. (2014). The importance of diversity in library programs and material collections for children. Association for Library Service to Children, American Library Association. Available at http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/f iles/content/ALSCwhitepaper_importance%2 0of%20diversity_with%20graphics_FINAL.pdf
We Need Diverse Books FAQ. (2016, January 31). Retrieved April 19, 2017, from http://weneeddiversebooks.org/faq/