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We Need Diverse Books...in elementary schools

Am I the last person to know about the partnership between Scholastic Book Club and We Need Diverse Books? From what I can tell, the two organizations have been collaborating since 2015, though I'm pretty sure our school hasn't sent home any designated WNDB flyers until last month. Or maybe they have — I don't usually look at the Book Club flyers unless one of my kids directs my attention to them.

I did take a look last month, however. The January flyers had been on the kitchen table for a couple of weeks, and one day I happened to notice one with the We Need Diverse Books logo front and center. The more I studied the flyer, the more I liked it.

Scholastic and WNDB have teamed up to curate collections of books by creators and featuring characters from marginalized groups. The WNDB website describes the partnership this way: “our goal is to give all children the opportunity to see themselves and others in books that are accessible and affordable.”

Looking more closely at the flyer in the kitchen, a book under the heading "Immigrants Who Changed the World!" caught my eye. First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great written by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Agata Nowicka. What a title! I haven’t seen the book yet and I have no idea if the title or the book's inclusion in the flyer was an intentional act of resistance, but that's how I interpret it. A small, powerful statement to counter the xenophobic hate that's becoming more and more emboldened of late.

I also love this spotlighted quote by Yoon Ha Lee, author of the sci-fi/fantasy Dragon Pearl, which includes a nonbinary character:

“As a kid, I read voraciously, but most books that had characters like me — queer, trans, Asian American — were about being oppressed. Adventures, especially in science fiction and fantasy, were rare. It’s important for kids to have books of all kinds, both serious and joyful, that reflect their own identities.”

Our elementary school has shied away from encouraging conversations about gender and queerness in the classroom, I think because the general thought is that kids in elementary school don't need to be educated about the topics until middle school. Seeing a quote like this — about a book like this — in a Scholastic book club flyer for third and fourth graders is so important for all kids.

Thank you, Scholastic and WNDB for recognizing "all children": all races, religions, genders, cultures, sexual orientations, and abilities.
Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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