Guest post from author/illustrator, Aram Kim
I sometimes sit on the park bench in the big playground in my neighborhood. In the afternoon, the playground is dynamic with children playing, running, screaming, laughing and talking. Though it is a natural scene for me by now, I am still amazed by the wonderful diversity of the children who play there. They all have different skin colors, languages and outfits, but none of that seems to be a problem for them. I live in Queens, where it is reportedly said hundreds of languages are spoken. Even in the same neighborhood, the entire ethnic scene changes when you just cross the road. I am so in love with it. I also like to visit libraries and bookstores. I spend most of my time in the children’s book section. Sadly, what I love about my neighborhood is not always reflected in children’s books.
We need so much more diversity in children’s books so that any child can see themselves and see others in the books they read. They should be able to naturally learn that everyone’s voice matters. There have been wonderful campaigns and movements to bring more diversity into these books and increase the diversity of creators and publishing industry employees. I admire the passion, perseverance, resilience and effort of the people who organize these campaigns.
I’ve always thought I could contribute to increasing diversity in children’s books, even a tiny bit, by telling the stories I know and creating stories only I could tell. However, I was very eager to be more actively involved in the effort to increase diversity in children’s literature. That explains why I was dancing around at 3 o’clock in the morning in my mom’s kitchen in South Korea. In March of this year, after submitting all the revisions for my new book No Kimchi for Me!, I went back to South Korea for a month to visit my family.
One day during this trip while I was still jet-lagged and working at 3 a.m with a client in New York, I got an email from Multi-cultural Children’s Book Day committee. They asked if I would be interested in creating next year’s poster. Everyone in my family was sleeping at that time, so I pantomimed a scream, popped out of the dining room chair I was sitting at, and spent the next few minutes jumping and dancing around. The only time I could remember doing this before was when I got the contract for my debut picture book Cat on the Bus in 2015.
So that’s how I got to spend part of my summer creating the Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 poster with much support from wonderful people at MCBD committee. I thank them so dearly to have given me the chance to be a part of this amazing campaign. As a children’s book author/illustrator, the most gratifying part of the job is when I meet kids at school who are delighted to see me, excited to listen to my story, and eager to tell their stories to me. Their vibrant energy motivates me.
Creating this poster gave me a little more assurance that I am getting one step closer to serving these readers right. They all deserve to see more diversity in the books they read and they love.
**Click the above poster image to download your copy
Aram Kim was born in Cincinnati, raised in South Korea, and currently lives in New York City. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, Aram is the author and illustrator of Cat on the Bus, called a “beautifully designed visual work” by School Library Journal and included in the ILA Children’s Choices 2017. Aram Kim’s new picture book, No Kimchi For Me!, about family, food, and a six-year-old “coming of age” has universal themes, and at the same time celebrates Korean culture. A Junior Library Guild selection.