Stories for All: A Market-Driven Answer to the Need for Diverse Books
Nonprofit to Spend Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars to Influence New Content
WASHINGTON, May 13, 2014 -- Last week, hundreds of thousands of parents, educators and readers of all ages issued a call for more diversity in children's literature, rallying under the banner of #WeNeedDiverseBooks. The campaign spread quickly from Twitter to media outlets around the world as people shared powerful stories about the need for all children to see themselves in books.
Today First Book is answering the call with a market-driven solution addressing the lack of diversity in children's literature.
"We're asking our friends in the publishing industry to show us more books from new and underrepresented voices," said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books to kids in need. "People have been frustrated by the lack of diversity in children's books for generations. To help solve this problem, we're putting our money where our mouth is and pledging to purchase 10,000 copies of each title we select."
Through these efforts, First Book will expand the reach of these titles, provide additional exposure for new authors and illustrators and support the development of new content.
Once published, the titles will be available to children everywhere.
First Book will also fund, for the first time ever, affordable paperback editions of diverse titles that have previously only been publicly available in expensive hardcover formats. These books will be available at special prices exclusively for the schools and organizations First Book serves.
A diverse group of authors and illustrators support First Book and this project. "Diversity, humanizing African-Americans in positive roles, is one gift we can bring to young people of all races to address this issue," said Walter Dean Myers, author of young adult fiction and five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. "Are we to say no to this gift?"
First Book serves the largest and fastest growing network of programs and schools reaching children in need across the United States and Canada. As part of their ongoing Stories for All Project, First Book will aggregate the purchasing power of these 120,000 programs and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring diverse picture stories to market.
"What First Book is doing with The Stories for All Project is something that the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team could only dream about," said Ellen Oh, the young adult author who launched the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign on Twitter. "If diverse books don't sell, they can't be published. First Book is providing a tangible solution to the problem and highlighting the importance of diversity."
"We won't adequately address the problem of diversity in children's literature until we build a market that supports publishers and authors focused on diverse perspectives," Zimmer said. "First Book is doing this in a way that makes good business sense for everyone. Publishers won't print what they don't think they can sell, so First Book is prepared to write a big check to make this happen."
First Book issued the offer to U.S. and Canadian publishers today, just as Children's Book Week gets underway. They will not be accepting submissions from the general public. First Book will announce the selected new titles this fall.
First Book has already proven their commitment to addressing the lack of diversity in children's literature and willingness to offer innovative solutions. Last March First Book launched the ongoing Stories for All Project, and issued a similar call to the publishing industry, purchasing $1 million worth of new books featuring diverse authors and characters from HarperCollins and Lee & Low Books.
"Partnering with First Book on the Stories for All Project last year was an incredible honor," said Craig Low, president of Lee & Low Books. "The objectives and goals of this project and our company's mission are so closely aligned. Since 1991, Lee & Low's sole mission has been to meet the need for more culturally diverse books. We place a strong emphasis on authenticity, related to race, culture, voice, and historical accuracy. We are thrilled that First Book is addressing this issue head on through bold and innovative initiatives like The Stories for All Project. We look forward to this being one step in a larger initiative to meet greater demand, with greater supply for these resources."
The lack of diverse books has a real impact on children. In a 2013 survey of more than 2,000 First Book schools and programs, 90 percent of respondents agreed that the children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and communities.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to download an infographic supporting this story.
About First Book
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 100 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. For more information, please visit us online or follow our latest news on Facebook and Twitter.