New Initiative Aims To Encourage Diversity In Kids' Publishing

Email a Friend
First Book CEO Kyle Zimmer says her data shows children read more enthusiastically when they see themselves reflected in their books.

The lack of diversity in children's literature is nothing new – it's an issue that's been roiling the book world for years. Just in the past few weeks, it's come to a head with the We Need Diverse Books campaign on Twitter and Tumblr. Everyone agrees: all kinds of kids need to be able to see themselves reflected in the books they read.

Now, a kids' literacy group thinks it's found a way to help that happen: First Book is a non-profit organization that gets books to kids in need. "There's been a growing recognition that there's a disconnect between children's books that are available and the diversity of the market," First Book CEO Kyle Zimmer tells NPR's Lynn Neary. And, she says, the statistics don't look good. "It's worse than you would guess."

Interview Highlights

On the statistics

After all these decades you would hope that we might have made more progress than we've made. So if you look at it, the number of — and these are statistics from a study out of the University of Wisconsin — the number of books by and about African American kids is about 1.3%. Books by and about Latino is about 3.3%. So the disconnect is profound.

On the importance of seeing yourself in a book

The data from First Book, from our own network ... they overwhelmingly report, in excess of 90% report that when kids see themselves in books, they are far more likely to become enthusiastic readers. But we also know that this isn't just about kids seeing themselves in books, this is also about kids seeing other kids in books, and other cultures in books.

On the First Book plan

Publishers will be stronger in their response, they will produce more books with diverse content if they're sure that the market is there. So First Book stepped out with a campaign called Stories for All, where we have guaranteed that we will buy 10,000 copies of the titles we select, that show a great commitment to diversity. And what that means for publishers is that there's a market there.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit