If you’re interested in diversity in children’s media either as a parent or early childhood professional, then you may be aware of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. The mission of this campaign is “to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature,” and it is “committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality.” Since its initiation in 2014, it has helped to bridge the conversation between multiple parties in the children’s print industry to create change.
Dialogues generated by #WeNeedDiverseBooks have trickled into the world of children’s interactive media. During the 2014 American Library Association Annual conference, my colleague Cen Campbell, founder of Little eLit, along with Marianne Martens, Claire Moore, and Paige Bentley-Flannery presented on reviewing apps for children from preschool age to the tween years. In the ALSC blog post “Cultural Competence in the Digital Realm #WeNeedDiverseApps”, co-presenter Marianne Martens, Ph.D., highlights ideas shared in their session and addresses the lack of quality in children’s multicultural apps. While Martens advocates for the need for more diverse apps, she reminds us to “maintain a critical perspective as we evaluate those [multicultural apps], and separate blatantly commercial products from quality ones worth sharing with our communities.”
Similar to this ALA presentation, the recent Joan Ganz Cooney Center post “Mind the (Diversity) Gap in Kids’ Digital Media” written by Sandhya Nankani, founder of Literary Safari, also focuses on the need for more multicultural children’s books and apps. Her post connects similarities between the children’s book industry and interactive media through findings from research she conducted and lessons learned from print media that can apply to interactive media. Some key findings from the research reveal that “the diversity gap that exists in the world of children’s books exists just as much, if not perhaps a bit more, in the world of children’s apps,” and “multicultural apps that introduce kids to diverse cultures and stories are often created by Indie developers with limited marketing resources” making them hard to find. After sharing her research, she presents strategies from #WeNeedDiverseBooks that can apply to the world of children’s interactive media to create more diverse content.
Both of these authors advocate for an increased amount children’s media to authentically represent diverse cultures and communities, present their own take on ways to resolve these issues, and find connections between children’s print media and interactive media. However, even after reading these articles, I am still left wondering how can we as early childhood professionals and parents be better advocates of #WeNeedDiverseApps and build a cohesive and empowering community? What are the steps that we can take to create impact in the field? Would it start with a Twitter chat, blog page, Facebook group, or another tool? I would love to hear your thoughts about strategies we can implement so that we can start creating change.