There. I said it. Since recent racial justice demonstrations, there has been a rise in interest in so-called “diverse books.” This has resulted in a rumble in publishing around the proper usage of the term. On one side, people like me want to stand out. Rightfully so—our books champion Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) main characters and are rooted in sharing our culture. On the other hand, why is a book like mine diverse? Because it doesn’t center around mostly white characters? There. I said it again.
I’m Ceece Kelley, founder of Soaring Kite Books, a Black-owned children’s book imprint based in Washington, D.C. After I had my now 1-year-old son, I realized the severe lack of books with characters that looked like me and my family and other people of color. So naturally, I just had to do something about this.
When I looked into the latest diversity statistics in publishing, I found that white main characters made up 41.8% of the children’s book market. Black/African characters made up 11.9%, Asian/Asian-American made up 8.7%, Latinx made up 5.3%, and Native American/Pacific Islander made up 1.05%. Now wait, Ceece. I am pretty good at math and there’s a chunk of data missing, you might say. Why, yes, you are very clever. The remaining 29.2% represent the children’s books with Animal/Other main characters. I’ve got nothing against animal books. But why are there more animal books than people of color as a whole? In this vibrant, diverse world, why are there so many more books about white children than not? These statistics didn’t sit right with me. That’s when I rolled up my sleeves.
Every child deserves to see themselves represented in books more equitably.
I have this conversation a lot because I’m passionate about it. And the most common devil’s advocate response I get is, “Well those statistics look pretty similar to U.S. demographics.” To an extent some of them are. But what we have to remember is that books are read internationally. The U.S. leads the world by a longshot in the number of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) which are assigned annually. Looking at ISBNs gives a good look at how many books are being published by Americans. What people often forget is that people of color are the global majority. So, yes we should absolutely have more “diverse books.”
I started this publishing imprint to not only tell stories about Black characters and my heritage, but to also amplify the voices of other authors of color. I chose to focus my imprint on picture books because I wanted to reach children 0-8 years old. Young children should know that they matter and can be in the spotlight, too. It builds children’s confidence to see literature and media that reflects them. It benefits non-people of color children to see other ethnicities in cultures in the spotlight. And we’re just getting started.
So what can you do? Support BIPOC authors. Buy Black books year-round. And if you agree with our mission of increasing diversity in children’s books, check out SoaringKiteBooks.com to support our titles. Right now, we are running the Black History Month pre-sale campaign for the ‘Georgie Dupree’ series. The ever-so-spunky Georgie Dupree teaches 4- to 8-year-olds lessons of resilience, self-confidence, and the power of positivity. It also showcases a loving Black family and BIPOC main characters and gives every child a “that’s me” moment.
About the Guest Author
Ceece Kelley is the Principal Author for Soaring Kite Books. She has a background in brand marketing and creative services and a Master of Liberal Arts from Harvard University. She enjoys working with illustrators, graphic designers, and editors to bring her visions to life and into the hands of readers. After having her son, Ceece felt compelled to introduce him to a variety of children’s books including timeless classics, empowering current releases, and books with characters that look just like him.