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Checklist: 8 Steps to Creating a Diverse Book Collection

It’s not easy to create an inclusive book collection. Whether you’re a librarian creating a collection for an entire community, a teacher creating a collection for your classroom, or a parent creating a collection for your children, choosing books that reflect the diversity of human experience can be a challenging job.

That’s because creating a diverse book collection is about more than just making sure X, Y, and Z are represented. It’s not a matter of ticking off check boxes or making sure quotas are filled. For those committed to doing it right, building a diverse book collection requires contemplation, research, and awareness. But the rewards are great: a truly diverse collection of books can turn children into lifelong readers and promote empathy, understanding, and self-confidence.

To make things a little easier, we’ve created a checklist to help.
Here are eight steps to all-inclusive reading:

  1. Does your book list or collection include books with characters of color? LGBTQ? Differently-abled?
  2. Does it include books with a main character of color? LGBTQ? Differently-abled?
  3. Does it include books written or illustrated by a person of color? Of different nationalities, religions or sexual preference?
  4. Are there any books with a person of color on the cover? Do the characters on the book covers accurately reflect the characters in the book?
  5. Think about your student population. Does your list provide a mix of “mirror” books and “window” books for your students—books in which they can see themselves reflected and books in which they can learn about others?
  6. Think about the subject matter of your diverse books. Do all your books featuring black characters focus on slavery? Do all your books about Latino characters focus on immigration? Are all your LGBTQ books coming out stories?
  7. Do you have any books featuring diverse characters that are not primarily about race or prejudice?
  8. Consider your classic books, both fiction and nonfiction. Do any contain hurtful racial or ethnic stereotypes, or images (e.g. Little House on the Prairie or The Indian in the Cupboard? If so, how will you address those stereotypes with students? Have you included another book that provides a more accurate depiction of the same culture?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, here are some resources that can help:

Where can I find great diverse children’s books? A resource list

Beyond Good Intentions: Selecting Multicultural Literature

Seven Ways to Explore Race in the Classroom

How inclusive is my classroom library? A Toolkit

Disability in KidLit

I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell Do I Read?

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Diversity in YA

*Many thanks to librarian Edith Campbell for her corrections and feedback on our list!

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