“Imagine a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.”
We Need Diverse books (WNDB) is a non-profit organization that aims to promote literature from underrepresented authors in hopes of transforming the publishing industry into a more diverse field. One that supports books with non-majority narratives and helps writers and illustrators publish these narratives.
WNDB started out as a hashtag in response to BookCon’s all-white, all-male panel of authors. But this was more than just a panel – BookCon’s panel was a representation of the lack of diversity in children’s literature. It was a sign that the publishing industry needed a change, and We Need Diverse Books is determined to push publishing towards that change.
But how exactly is the non-profit transforming the publishing scene? We Need Diverse Books offers tons of resources and avenues for readers and writers alike. They offer awards both for authors of diverse books, as well as the independent booksellers who promote those stories. The Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature is awarded to authors with diverse protagonists in narratives that define diversity in a meaningful way. This award is named after the late Walter Dean Myers, who was a fierce advocate for diversity in children’s and YA literature. Similarly, the Walter Dean Myers Grant is a grant available for unpublished authors and illustrators. The Bookseller of the Year Award acknowledges independent booksellers who help amplify the voices of diverse authors and illustrators. After all, booksellers play a huge role in publishing, and WNDB acknowledges that with this award.
Recently, WNDB launched OurStory, an app that allows readers, teachers, librarians, and basically anyone to find the diverse books they’re looking for. There are different membership levels; the free version offers the diverse database and the ability to print a list of books for your library, while the $2/mo subscription offers exclusive content from your favorite authors and illustrators. The money from this app helps fund WNDB’s mentorships, internships, awards and grants.
We Need Diverse Books has also published their own diverse books. Flying Lessons & Other Stories is an anthology of middle-grade short stories. Fresh Ink is another anthology published by the organization, this time geared towards YA audiences. The publication of these anthologies is particularly inspiring, as it is a physical representation of their mission statement: “Putting more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.”
The story behind We Need Diverse Books’ creation is particularly inspiring. What started out as a hashtag transformed into an organization that offers dozens of resources that all aim to promote diversity in children’s literature. Readers and writers alike have been calling for more diversity in the publishing industry, and the founders of this organization heard the call and answered it in more ways than one. With more individuals like co-founders Ellen Oh and Dhonielle Clayton, we can certainly head towards the world WNDB imagines – one where all children can see themselves in the pages of the books they read.
PRR Writer, Matty Ortega