While the flurry of traditional and social media around #WeNeedDiverseBooks has subsided since the grassroots group emerged this past spring in response to the lack of diversity in BookCon’s initial author lineup, #WNDB has made good on its promise to advocate on an ongoing basis for more diversity in children’s book publishing. Calling itself We Need Diverse Books, the group has incorporated as a volunteer-run nonprofit organization because, as author Lamar Giles, WNDB’s v-p of communications, noted in a release, “Incorporating will give us the legitimacy and standing we need to move forward with our mission. We have many exciting projects in the works.” WNDB publicity liaison S.E. Sinkhorn added in an email to PW that the hashtag was removed from the organization’s name because “we wanted to make the statement that we are ‘more than just a hashtag’ and illustrate our movement beyond ‘hashtag activism’ into creating tangible and substantial change.”
The organization is launching with a project in collaboration with First Book and the National Education Association’s Read Across America program to promote multicultural books and their authors though a Diversity in the Classroom initiative.
“Diversity in the Classroom will bring the opportunity to explore a diverse author’s book to a different classroom every month of the school year,” WNDB founder and the nonprofit’s president, Ellen Oh, explained when the initiative was first announced at BookCon during a panel on multiculturalism that the group’s leaders organized at the request of ReedPOP, BookCon’s sponsors. Each month, participating classrooms will share on the web their discussions on a selected book before meeting the author, either in person or via Skype, to talk about the reading experience.
WNDB is also developing the first Children’s Literature Diversity Festival, to be held in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2016. And it plans to launch a grant program supporting diverse authors and develop a “diversity toolkit” for librarians and booksellers as well.
WNDB consists of an executive team headed by Oh, eight officers, and an advisory board. WNDB’s inaugural advisory board consists of five prominent children’s authors known for incorporating multicultural themes in their works: Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Cindy Pon.