The lessons of Fenty Beauty and Black Panther have not yet trickled down to the world of children’s books. Apparently, the publishing industry has not yet realized that inclusiveness is not just the right thing to do morally but also financially.
As CNN reports, a mere 9% of children’s books published in the U.S. in 2017 featured African or African-American characters. Put another way, a full 91% of children’s books seem to be about what 11-year old activist Marley Dias calls “white boys and their dogs.” The CNN report puts a spotlight on Dias, who has spent the last few years collecting more than 11,000 books as part of her quest to find more young POC heroes in modern literature. Her movement, which she calls #1000BlackGirlBooks, has led Dias to donate over half of those collected books to “predominantly black and underserved” communities in the U.S., Haiti, Ghana, Jamaica, and the U.K., as well as publish her own tome, Marley Dias Gets It Done, and develop a forthcoming app for kids to find #1000BlackGirlBooks (or more) on demand.
Perhaps even more disturbing than the dearth of children’s books about African or African-American characters is the woeful lack of children’s books by Africans or African Americans. As CNN reports, according to data from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), these groups wrote or illustrated just 3% of the overall children’s books last year. CNN attributes these low numbers to a greater diversity problem within the publishing industry, citing a 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey of staff at 34 U.S. publishers, which found an overwhelming 79% of staff to be white.