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Number of black characters in US kids’ books has doubled

DIVERSITY: The number of US children's books with African-American characters has more than doubled in 10 years

THE NUMBER of children’s books in the US that feature African-American characters has more than doubled in the last decade, new figures show.

Research by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that the number of kids’ books with African or African-American characters rose to 401 from a total of 3,617 titles in 2018, up from 172 from a total of 3,000 titles in 2008.

The number of books featuring Asian characters more than tripled throughout the 10-year period.

As well as an increase in the number of African-American characters, the figures also show the number of African and African-American authors has risen. In 2008, the figure stood at 83, whereas in 2018 it rose to 202.

Nicole Johnson, executive director at We Need Diverse Books, told The Guardian: “More than a trend, we believe this is a seismic shift in children’s publishing and affirmation of the diverse experiences of all children and families in the United States.”

USA Today reported that the Cooperative Children’s Book Center said there are not enough diverse kids’ books on the shelves.

Kathleen Horning, director of Cooperative Children’s Book Center, told The Guardian: “It’s hard to say just by looking at one year that we’re seeing real change.

“It can feel like we’re making progress. And then it’s as if publishers say, ‘OK, we’ve done that. Let’s move on to the next thing'. We’ll have to see where we are in five or 10 years.”

Horning added that it was necessary for books to not only be diverse but to present an authentic and accurate reflection of “the reality of the increasingly diverse population in the United States”.

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