Children’s Books: Still an All-White World? | School Library Jour: On March 15, 2014, the New York Times published two op-ed pieces, one by author Walter Dean Myers and the other by his son, author-illustrator Christopher Myers, both asking, “Where are the people of color in children’s books?” It’s not the first time the question has been asked. It’s not even the first time Walter Dean Myers, a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has asked it. Almost 30 years earlier, he had raised the same issue in an op-ed piece, “I Actually Thought We Would Revolutionize the Industry,” published in the Times on November 9, 1986.
Twenty years earlier, Nancy Larrick had posed the same question in the September 11, 1965 issue of The Saturday Review. Her article, “The All-White World of Children’s Books,” outlined the problem by providing statistics. Larrick, an educator and founder of the International Reading Association, examined 5,206 children’s books produced by 63 publishers from 1962 through 1964, and found that only 349 of them, or 6.4 percent, included one or more blacks in the illustrations. Of these, 60 percent were set outside the United States or took place before World War II, which meant that only four-fifths of one percent of the children’s trade books published in the U.S. from 1962 to 1964 were about contemporary African Americans.