Roughly a year after its launch, the Diverse Books for All Coalition—a consortium of more than 40 nonprofits and member organizations founded by First Book—has taken major steps toward its mission of providing communities in need with increased access to diverse children’s books. On September 19, at the Global Clinton Initiative 2023 meeting held in New York City, the coalition presented its Commitment to Action, stating that it will use its collective market power to purchase and distribute 600,000 “new, high-quality, affordable children’s books by and about diverse races, cultures, identities, and abilities” over the next 18 months.
The coalition has already begun the process of getting the first 130,000 books of the pledged total out to kids. For this initial phase, the coalition worked with four publishers—Abrams, Barefoot Books, Candlewick, and Penguin Random House—to select a collection of 18 bilingual and paperback titles to be distributed to the children served by its member organizations across the country. Each organization will order the books they want from the collection and will use their own already-established distribution models to provide those books to their constituents. Among the books in the collection are Cerca/Close by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Blanca Gómez (Candlewick); Dumpling Day by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Inés De Antuñano (Barefoot); Just Ask!/¡Solo pregunta!: Sé diferente, sé valiente, sé tú by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López (Philomel); and Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham, illustrated by C.G. Esperanza (Abrams).
“We’re doing this work with the incredible sense of urgency,” said Ernestine Benedict, chief communications officer of coalition member organization Zero to Three. “We’ve all seen many articles about the reading crisis in this country showing that reading test scores in this nation are plummeting.” She also noted reports indicating that children’s reading for pleasure is at a historic low. “So, the coalition’s effort is not just something fun to do,” Benedict said. “It is critical. The other piece of this is that our nation’s hue has changed. The majority of youth in this country are children of color and they deserve to see and read books that reflect who they are, affirm who they are in their families and their community. And there’s a surge in activity to take those books away, take that access away. That too really layers on to the urgency through which the Diverse Books for All Coalition is moving with this work.”