Deep into my readings on this topic and it’s not making me feel particularly cheerful. The statistics are appalling.
On the one hand one should be glad that there are enough people who care enough to keep count. On the other, it doesn’t appear that the counting leads to any measurable improvement.
Here are the statistics from 2002 to 2014 from Cooperative Children’s Book Center School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. And to take note of their criteria – it’s only the diversity of the United States that is counted – i.e. African / African Americans; American Indians; Asian Pacifics / Asian Pacific Americans and Latinos. The diversity in the rest of the world? Well who is counting? Who cares? Or are we just not able to access it? What about the glory of the international librarian networks? Or are we really just still in our bubbles?
Looking at the translation scene in the USA via the Batchelder Awards; Garrison, Forest and Kimmel (2014) remark how:
“A brief skim of the most recent winners and honors shows that most of the books derive from European languages including French, German, and Dutch. The story settings show somewhat broader geographic diversity including places throughout Europe as well as Asia, Africa, and South America. Garrison and Kimmel (in press) found that a composite Batchelder Award winner or honor from the years 1997-2013 would be a realistic fiction novel set in Western Europe featuring a male protagonist and dealing with a serious topic like World War II.” (Garrison, Forest & Kimmel, 2014, p. 72).
The absolute skewness in publishing is highlighted in this (dated, but probably still relevant and apparently not recently updated) dichotomy:
“While children’s literature from so-called developing countries hardly ever reaches European and American readers, a recent survey revealed that 80 per cent of books for children set in non-European and non-American cultures are written by European and American authors (Fremde Welten 2001) (O’Sullivan, 2004, p.20)…Alongside these countries which only export children’s books while almost failing entirely to import any are those which provide a market for the global corporations – 70 to 90 per cent of books available to reading children in non-European/American cultures are by European or American authors – but whose own books rarely cross the linguistic, political or cultural divide to partake in the Western market (O’Sullivan, 2004 p.22).”
Other low points include the depiction or even existence of racially / culturally mixed children or people (Chaudhri, 2013) – whereas the reality that is strikingly obvious the moment you walk into any (international) school is that this type of diversity is real and in a school near you.
Onwards and upwards… it can’t get any worse after all.
Chaudhri, A. (2013). Growing up mixed/up: Multiracial identity in children’s and young adult literature. In J. C. Naidoo & S. P. Dahlen (Eds.), Diversity in youth literature: opening doors through reading (pp. 95–123). Chicago, Ill: ALA-Ed.
Garrison, K. L., Forest, D. E., & Kimmel, S. C. (2014). Curation in translation: Promoting global citizenship through literature. School Libraries Worldwide, 20(1), 70–96.
O’Sullivan, E. (2004). Internationalism, the universal child and the world of children’s literature. In P. Hunt (Ed.), International companion encyclopedia of children’s literature (2nd ed., pp. 13–25). London ; New York: Routledge. Retrieved from EBook Library