Multicultural Children’s Book Day, a nonprofit initiative whose dual mission is to raise awareness of kids’ books celebrating diversity and to get more of these books into classrooms and libraries, will take place on Friday, January 27. The annual event, founded by bloggers and children’s reading advocates Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, has each year attracted a burgeoning number of participants—authors, publishers, parents, teachers, bloggers, and librarians—who join forces to shine the spotlight on diversity in children’s literature. In 2016, the MCBD initiative generated more than 96 million social media share impressions, and during this year’s celebration, more than 400 bloggers and book reviewers nationwide will post reviews of children’s books with multicultural themes and characters.
The founders of MCBD were inspired by their own difficulties finding books that reflected the cultural traditions and experiences of their children. Born in Sweden, Budayr emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child, and grew up in a bilingual home. She speaks five languages and resides in Maryville, Tenn., where she and her husband, a surgeon originally from Beirut, are raising their three children Muslim.
“We have many books at home in various and dual languages,” said Budayr, an author, CEO of Audrey Press, and founder of the Jump into a Book blog. “My husband and I are trying to raise our children as global citizens with a world view, yet it is very challenging to find books about Muslim kids whose lives reflect those of our own children.” And, she added, MCBD is rooted in the belief that “if children can see themselves in books, particularly at that crucial period of a time when they are learning to read independently, they will be more motivated to read. On another note, all kids need to learn about others who are not like them, and books encourage empathy by providing that window into different experiences.”
Now living in the Boston area, Wenjen, founder of the Pragmatic Mom blog, also has personal incentive for championing more diverse children’s publishing programs. Her father’s family emigrated to the States from China, her mother’s Japanese-American family was relocated from San Francisco to an internment camp during World War II – and her husband, now a professional golfer, was born in Korea and grew up in California. “At one point, if I heard about a book written by an Asian author or one about Asian children, I would buy it sight unseen,” she recalled. “I think there are more picture books featuring Asians and Asian-Americans being published today, but there are still very few chapter books.”
After reading several years ago that census data shows that 37% of the U.S. population consists of people of color, yet allegedly only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content, Wenjen announced on her blog that she was interested in reviewing only books focusing on multiculturalism and diversity, which caught the attention of Budayr. She contacted Wenjen to suggest they launch an annual online celebration of books in those categories.
“Both Mia and I have large followings on our blogs, and we both feel a responsibility to our communities, which was what sparked my interest in staring a national online book holiday,” Budayr recalled. “When I mentioned it to Mia, she said, ‘But how do we do that?’ and I said, ‘We just do.’ And we just did! That was in July 2013, and we held the first Multicultural Children’s Book Day the following January.”
Aided by project manager Becky Flansburg, Budayr and Wenjen quickly pulled together the debut MCBD, and the event has expanded exponentially each year. The 2017 celebration’s sponsors include numerous publishers, among them Scholastic, Barefoot Books, Broccoli Book Series, Candlewick, Capstone Young Readers, Lee & Low, Wisdom Tales, and Chronicle. MCBD is also sponsored by more than two dozen authors, including Karen Leggett Abouraya, Susan Bernardo, Geoff Griffin, Vahid Imani, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Miranda Paul, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, and Andrea Y. Wang.
“Every year we try to add a new program that gets books directly into the hands of kids who really need them, and 100 percent of the money MCBD raises goes toward that mission,” Budayr said. “We are gratified to have been able to start this organic movement that brings a book-loving community together under one banner – readers, teachers, publishers, parents, librarians, bloggers, reviewers, publishers, and associations. And it is very rewarding to realize that we’re creating a dialogue that goes on long after the day’s events are over.”
Here’s a roundup of some of the highlights of 2017’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day; assets and details can be found on the MCBD website.
- Teacher Book Giveaway: Teachers can sign up to receive a free multicultural book, while supplies last, donated by MCBD honorary sponsor Junior Library Guild.
- Free Classroom “Kindness” Kits: This educator and librarian resource to encourage kindness includes a book list for ages 4-12, classroom activities, a “Be a Hero, Be Kind” poster by Jarrett Krosoczka, and a MCBD poster created by DEMI.
- Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: An extensive resource of book lists and extension activities organized by geographic region, ethnicity, religion, genre, special needs, and more.
- Book Giveaways on Twitter @MCChildsBookDay with #ReadYourWorld Book Jam 2017, featuring 24 diversity authors and illustrators in partnership with the Children’s Book Council.
- “The Big Giant Linky”: Located on the MCBD website and on the sites of co-host bloggers, this link-up, which will be live on January 27, is a compilation of 400-plus multicultural book reviews and activities that provides an online resource for parents, educators, caregivers, and librarians. A separate “Linky” will be available for those reviewing books on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
- Live Twitter Party @MCChildsBookDay on January 27, 9–10 p.m. EST, which will include a conversation about diverse reads, present book recommendations for parents, and offer free book giveaways every six minutes (hashtag #ReadYourWorld).
- Read Your World: A Guide to Multicultural Children’s Books for Parents and Educators: This new e-book is a comprehensive guide to diverse book titles for kids of all ages. Compiled by bloggers and authors and illustrated by Demi, the book will be available as a free downloadable until January 31, after which it will be available for purchase on Amazon, with proceeds benefiting MCDB initiatives.