VIDA, the organization that brings us pie charts showing the gender gap in literary bylines, recently released an assessment of gender representation in children’s literature.
The prevailing opinion held by many is that the realm of children’s literature favors women writers and illustrators. But VIDA’s Children’s Literature Count revealed that while men make up a relatively small portion of the industry, they are actually well-represented among award winners and list mentions. As Kekla Magoon writes on VIDA’s site, “Being female is not nearly the barrier to initial publication for us that it often is in the adult literary landscape, but as this year’s pie charts demonstrate, being male still seems to carry some particular advantages when it comes to recognition, prestige, and awards for literary merit.” The Count looked at ten of the most prestigious awards in children literature going back five years and several best book lists for 2013.
Children’s literature also has a representation problem when it comes to its characters. A 2013 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin revealed that out of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 were about black people. And the study wasn’t representative of an off year. This infographic demonstrates the diversity gap in children’s books over an 18 year period.
Every two steps forward, one step back.
Syreeta McFadden is a writer in Brooklyn.