The Children’s Book Council, the nonprofit trade association for children’s publishers in North America, has revealed the winners of the inaugural CBC Diversity Outstanding Achievement Awards. The awards are given annually in recognition of children’s publishing professionals who have helped bring greater diversity to the creation of books for young readers and to the industry’s employment practices.
Shifa Kapadwala, publicity manager at the Children’s Book Council and moderator of the CBC Diversity Committee, said, “The committee had the great joy and responsibility of reviewing nominations from across the children’s publishing community. In making their selections, the committee has summarized the accomplishments of these inspiring people and organizations.”
The 2019 winners, which were announced during the CBC Annual Meeting in New York City on September 27, are as follows:
Saraciea J. Fennell: After launching a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, Fennell, who is a publicist at Tor, founded the Bronx Book Festival and The Bronx Is Reading, a literacy program for underserved area schools that runs in conjunction with the festival. Fennell also serves as a member of both the People of Color in Publishing and Latinx in Publishing groups.
Jennifer Loja: The president and publisher of Penguin Books for Young Readers has established herself as an ally on the diversity front by promoting inclusive hiring methods and, in the words of the CBC Diversity Committee, by showing the need “to bring stories from the margins into the light,”
Jason Low: As publisher of Lee & Low Books, promoting multicultural children’s literature, Low has spearheaded programs such as the New Voices and New Visions Awards for debut authors of color; the Diversity Baseline Survey; and the Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship with Simmons College, which supports people of color who are pursuing careers in publishing.
Beth Phelan: In addition to championing diverse voices through her work as an agent at Gallt & Zacker Literary, Phelan created #DVPit in 2016—a Twitter pitch event that shines a light on emerging authors of traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.
Phoebe Yeh: A vocal advocate in the movement for diverse books, the v-p and publisher of Random House’s Crown Books for Young Readers imprint helped jumpstart the careers of such authors as Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Lamar Giles, and Ellen Oh. Yeh recently published the activism-focused anthology We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson.
We Need Diverse Books: Since its founding in 2014, the grassroots organization has confronted the lack of diversity in children’s publishing. Founder Ellen Oh and COO Dhonielle Clayton have led WNDB initiatives including the Walter Dean Myers Awards, Internship Grants, and WNDB in the Classroom, a national program that offers free diverse books to low-income schools.
An official ceremony and conversation with the honorees will take place on October 24, as part of a CBC Forum event. The award winners will also have the opportunity to select an organization of their choice to receive $1,000 worth of children’s books in their name.