With the growth of social media we have seen an increase in hashtag use and a concept called hashtag activism. Not only can users use hashtags to find information on a topic but they can also closely follow discussions on certain topics. Hashtags are useful in sparking dialogue and debate and increasing awareness of issues. Ofterntimes though, the hashtag only generates just that; dialogue. Action does not always follow.
A recent hashtag, #weneeddiversebooks has gone a step further. From the popularity of a hashtag a nonprofit organization was born. Take a look at children’s books and young adult fiction. Many books in those genres lack diversity. Youth today are missing out on learning about different people and cultures. The characters in books oftentimes don’t resemble their readers. Gay and transgendered youth have difficulty relating to main characters that lead lives nothing like their own. Perhaps Muslim characters can’t relate to the American culture that is prevalent in many books.
This is where #weneeddiversebooks come into play. Once the nonprofit was formed, more information was becoming available as to what decent recommendations were for building a more diverse collection. Reader’s advisory was impacted as well as librarians were able to incorporate more diverse titles into their libraries.
Youth were able to weigh in and make suggestions as to what they wanted to read. They are able to find relatable characters that reflect their diversity as well. Diverse books are useful for everyone though. They can open the eyes of readers to lifestyles and situations that they may never experience. They can see the world through someone else’s eyes.
As more and more libraries add diverse books to their collections the publishing trends may start to change as well. Publishers will see the need for diversity. They will see the need for books and characters that reflect not just the majority but also the minorities. They may see that sometimes all it takes to make a child feel secure in him or herself is to see their experiences reflected elsewhere. Just knowing they are not alone and that others feel the same as they do can be so reassuring. And more often than not, youth and children just want to feel that they are not alone.
Please take a moment and read through the We Need Diverse Books website. There are several ways for librarians, teachers, and individuals to get involved and to spread the word about diversity in literature. Follow the on social media to stay up to date with their program. They can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. You literally can make a difference through books.
Take a look at your collection in your library and see where it is lacking. Start building a more diverse, more inlcusive collection today; one that represents readers of all ages, genders, sexuality, and cultures.
And to think that this all started on social media with one little hashtag….
The concept of this post was inspired by this article:
Rapp, H. (2017). From Hashtags to Better Readers’ Advisory. ILA Reporter, 35(1), 25-26.