ALA Annual Conference 2021

Diversity in Children’s Literature and in Your Library #ALAAC21

ALA Annual Conference has tremendous featured speakers, and we’ve all enjoyed hearing from the stars like Stanley Tucci and Nikole Hannah-Jones, but the real learning often takes place in the quieter sessions. Over the last few days, I’ve benefited from multiple sessions that focus on diversity in children’s literature and our responsibility to diversify our collections.

“The Future of Children’s Literature: A Discussion of Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going”
(EMIERT 2021 Annual Chair’s Program)
In this panel discussion featuring publisher Jason Low, professor Sarah Park Dahlen, librarian Eboni Henry, and CBCC researcher Madeline Tyner, participants gained a ton of information on the status of diverse representation in children’s literature and in the publishing industry more broadly. With a heavy focus on data, the panel provided clear indications of the progress that has been made while urging that more is necessary.

On a practical level, participants were urged to conduct a diversity audit of their local collections and to move with intention to fill any discovered gaps. Lee and Low offer a Classroom Library Questionnaire to aid teachers or librarians in this profess. And just like at an in-person conference, we can learn much from each other. Chat participant Sam Bloom suggested the See What We See database as a good resource for collection development, and it looks like an excellent tool for diversity and social justice titles.

“Diverse Children’s Literature in K-12 Schools: Making Mirrors, Windows, and Glass Doors Visible”
This on-demand session features professor Elizabeth Burns, school librarian Karla Bradley, education librarian Brittany Kester, and ELA teacher Kimiko Pettis and covers the many roles connected with providing access to diverse books. From pre-service teachers and librarians to those working in schools today, everyone can learn much from these professionals.

They urge librarians to focus on the needs of their community as they develop a diverse collection and suggest such tools as the Diverse Bookfinder for both identifying new titles for your collection and for updating metadata tags for your existing collection. They also remind viewers that you can have the most diverse collection in the world for nothing if you can’t get those books into the hands of students. One good reminder is that the teacher/librarian sets the tone of enthusiasm for the material, so if you love it, they likely will too! They also point out that students today still LOVE to be read to, so if you were thinking of abandoning your readaloud, don’t!

#BlackGirlMagic: Amplifying Black Voices Through Storytelling”
In this on-demand session, the collaborative team of Lilly Workneh and CaShawn Thompson discuss the latest offering from the Rebel Girls series: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real Life Tales of Black Girl Magic. Thompson, the creator of that now-famous hashtag, starts by explaining what Black Girl Magic means to her:

It is a birthright; it is a legacy.

She wants to make clear that even though their book focuses on remarkable women, Black Girl Magic isn’t something you have to earn. Black girls have it inherently! The book was produced entirely by Black women or non-binary creatives, and it would make an excellent addition to any collection!


Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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