“MCCBD is a wonderful idea whose time has come!
By Lisa Dugan for Child’s Play Books
In the past few years a groundswell of belief has been building that every child should be able to “Read Their World.” Here at Child’s Play, we are committed to publishing books that fully reflect our diverse society in terms of heritage, disability, gender and family. These issues have been at the heart of our mission for over 40 years, driving us to create innovative, award-winning books for children from 0-7 years that promote learning through play.
You might associate us with The Big Hungry Bear, or There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, but we are more than just those two titles. We have actively cultivated an inclusive publishing program that respects all children, and depicts a wide variety of children, families and circumstances. For example, we have an entire line of fairy tales that we’ve flipped—sometimes the princess does her own rescuing, or the hero needs glasses. Our board books seamlessly include characters with disabilities, of different ethnicities and with families that break stereotypes in other ways. We make the images casual and incidental; they seem like they are just part of the story, but we consult with diversity specialists and a number of agencies to ensure that inclusion is accurate and effective.
Noted educator Rudine Sims Bishop used a great metaphor to illustrate what multicultural literature at its best could be. That’s where I first heard the phrase “windows and mirrors” to explain how books could let children experience other cultures and see their own culture validated. And while we have made a good start, we realize that as an industry we must continue to expand these offerings—and we must redouble our efforts to get these titles in the hands of kids—all sorts of kids in all places. Books play a vital role in building the foundations for learning, and exposure to quality books from an early age helps to develop an inquiring mind, confidence, and an inclusive world view.
As an international company, we see first-hand that diversity in children’s books is a concern not just in the United States, but around the world. Sue Baker, one of our editors in Great Britain, frequently writes on issues of diversity. I can’t resist highlighting a couple of eloquent passages from her:
“For us it’s not about creating specialist books for or about particular children, but great books that every child can find him or herself in.”
“For us as a company, the diverse and inclusive path we are following has been full of discussions . . . education, enlightenment, and now resolve. Being independent has massive advantages for us. We do have to survive in a commercial world, and of course we have to be profitable, but being independent means we can afford to be bold. Not bold in a ‘shout out loud’ way, but bold in trying things out and taking what some would term ‘risks’ with what we publish. “
As this movement takes hold, we hope to see these “risks” diminish. Efforts like MCCBD are just the sort of things needed to help this movement. More people will grow to see the wisdom and necessity of picture books that are inclusive and diverse, and traditional publishers will see that inclusion is more than a responsibility, it is also a path to profitability. As narratives featuring diverse, inclusive characters become a more accepted and natural part of the library landscape, children of all ethnicities, religions, family circumstances and disabilities will feel like equal players in the books they read.”