The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison collects data on the number of children’s books about people of color that are published every year. In 1985, the Center found that of the 2,500 books published for children or teens that year, 18 were authored by African Americans.
The numbers have improved. In 2014, there were about 5,000 books published for this age group. The Center found that 84 were written by African Americans and 180 were about African Americans. While signficant progress has been achieved since 1985, today less than 4 percent of children’s books are about African American subjects. Blacks make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population in the age group for children’s and teen books.
“We’ve seen the same old story year after year,” says CCBC Director Kathleen T. Horning. “If the numbers rise one year, they’re likely to fall back the next year. It’s as if there has been a glass ceiling when it comes to diversity in children’s books. The numbers have stagnated throughout most of my career here.”