I write a lot about the importance of children’s books for helping children gain strength and understanding by seeing characters both similar and dissimilar to themselves. I was therefore delighted to see “A Declaration For Children: Our Vow To Uplift Through Books” at Denene Millner’s My Brown Baby and group blog The Brown Bookshelf. In it, a variety of children’s authors, including National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson, Newbery Award winner Linda Sue Park, We Need Diverse Books co-founder Ellen Oh, and many others, “publicly affirm our commitment to using our talents and varied forms of artistic expression to help eliminate the fear that takes root in the human heart amid lack of familiarity and understanding of others; the type of fear that feeds stereotypes, bitterness, racism and hatred; the type of fear that so often leads to tragic violence and senseless death.”
They cite the recent election as evidence of the systemic bigotry of our country and the gaps that divide us, and explain: “As children’s book creators, we feel a special connection and responsibility to amplify the young voices that too often go unheard…. We believe it is our duty to not just create, but also to empower children, affirm their lives and stand up for change.”
To do so, they say:
For our young readers, we will create stories that offer authentic and recognizable reflections of themselves, as well as relatable insight into experiences which on the surface appear markedly different. We will use our books to affect a world brimming with too many instances of hostility and injustice. We will plant seeds of empathy, fairness and empowerment through words and pictures. We will do so with candor and honesty, but also in the spirit of hope and love.
Go read the entire pledge for an eloquent expression of why and how children’s book creators can play a part in addressing this. If you’re an author or illustrator yourself, leave a comment at The Brown Bookshelf or My Brown Baby as requested if you’d like to add your name. Additionally, read this “amendment” by Zetta Elliott on the role of the publishing industry in perpetuating inequity.