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Only 22% of Children’s Book Characters Were People of Color in 2016

Children-Reading-Shutterstock

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center, which has been tracking the number of books published by and about people of color since 1994, announced their numbers for 2016 on Wednesday. For children’s books published last year, approximately 22% were about people of color, and 12% were written or illustrated by people of color. Currently, people of color constitute 38% of the U.S. population.

Put in raw numbers, the CCBC analyzed 3,400 books, of which 736 were about people of color, and 427 were written or illustrated by people of color.

The CCBC clarified that this does not mean 88% of children’s book characters are white. They do not keep track of how many white protagonists appear in children’s books, because “white people are not notably, or even noticeably, lacking in books for children and teens.” However, they note that many children’s books feature “animal characters or trucks or other high-interest topics; and nonfiction about aspects of the natural world, etc.,” so those non-human characters and nonfiction topics do make up a significant portion of the remaining 88%.

These numbers are still far from inspiring, but there was a bit of good news. According to a post on the CCBC’s blog, representation for some minority groups was up: “Two broad categories–Asian/Pacifics and Latinos–saw a notable jump in numbers this year for both ‘by’ and ‘about.’ The numbers for African and African Americans and First/Native Nations remained disappointingly static or dropped. Those mixed numbers reflect our mixed feelings: It’s both an both an exciting and frustrating time for multicultural literature advocates.”

As campaigns like We Need Diverse Books and #1000BlackGirlBooks have shown, representation matters, especially for young children–so let’s get these numbers up, North American publishers.

You can find out more about how the CCBC defines its categories, and the breakdown of book titles by specific ethnicity, at their website.

(Via NPR’s Code Switch; image via Shutterstock)

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