Many thanks to Debbie Reese for posting this important article on Facebook: “Survey Finds Nearly 80% of U.S. Adults Believe Multicultural Picture Books Are Important for Children, but One-Third Say They Are Hard to Find.”
NEW YORK, June 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Nearly eight in ten (78%) U.S. adults believe that it is important for children to be exposed to picture books that feature main characters of various ethnicities or races—but one-third (33%) report that it is difficult to find such books, according to a recent survey that was commissioned by The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the love of reading and learning in all children.
The telephone survey, conducted in April by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation surveyed 1,001 U.S. adults and found that nearly three-quarters of parents (73%) and half of all adults (49%) have purchased a children’s picture book with a protagonist of a different race or ethnicity than the child who will be reading the book. Whereas, only 10% consider it important to match the race or ethnicity of the main character of a picture book to the race or ethnicity of the child who will be receiving the book.
“It’s reassuring that so many adults recognize the value in exposing children to books that portray people of all colors and ethnicities,” says Deborah Pope, Executive Director of The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. “What’s disheartening though is that, even today, these books are few and far between,” adds Pope, who notes that only 9% of 3,400 books published in 2010 for children and teens had significant minority content.
So which comes first? People don’t buy multicultural titles because bookstores don’t carry them, or bookstores don’t carry those titles because people don’t come in to buy them? One solution is to launch a new initiative that controls all the stages of book production. My agent told me about this PW article a few days ago and now it’s up on Facebook, too. I like this idea but worry that start-ups and outsourcing will give the big publishing houses an excuse to preserve their all-white operations:
Looking to provide a publishing platform for serious literary works, Brooklyn indie publisher Akashic Books is teaming with three notable African-American publishing and bookselling figures to launch Open Lens, a new imprint specializing in quality fiction and nonfiction aimed at the African-American reading audience. The new imprint will be called Open Lens and will debut in September with Makeda, a new novel by Randall Robinson, founder of the human rights and social justice organization TransAfrica.
Open Lens is a co-venture between Akashic Books and literary agents Marie Brown and Regina Brooks along with Hue-Man Bookstore owner Marva Allen and initial guest editor, former Random House executive editor Janet Hill Talbert. Akashic Books has long focused on the African-American market with a list of titles focused on African-American, African, and Caribbean authors.