Young Adult Literature

We Need Diverse Books: Real Teens Have Their Say

Rita Meade

Staff Writer

Rita Meade is a public library manager (and children's librarian at heart) who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Here at Book Riot, she hosts the Dear Book Nerd podcast, a bi-weekly bookish advice show. She reads as much as she possibly can (and it's still never enough), reviews children's books for "School Library Journal," and is the author of a forthcoming picture book called Edward Gets Messy (Simon & Schuster Young Readers, 2016). She also occasionally writes about funny library stuff over on her blog, and even less occasionally sings in a librarian band. Blog: Screwy Decimal Twitter: @screwydecimal

If you haven’t heard about #WeNeedDiverseBooks yet, then now is the time to learn, my friends. The campaign, which strives to increase diverse representation in literature, has been growing steadily and is ever-more necessary. (Side note: check out the awesome #WNDB short story contest going on and enter it! ENTER IT, I SAY.)

To show the impact this campaign is having, I’d like to present some real-life examples of #WeNeedDiverseBooks comments written by real-life teens. The awesome children’s librarian at my library branch,
Katya Schapiro, recently held a book club meeting for a group of diverse teens and explained to them what the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign was all about. The teens then created their own comments to be used for a library display. The results, if I may say so, are amusing, insightful, poignant, and inspiring all at once.

I had a chance to speak with a few of the teens and after I got their permission to share their signs on this site, I asked them if there were any thoughts they wanted to add. One of the girls told me “We just want representation. I read this YA series recently where the ‘hot guy’ of the book was blonde with blue eyes and the ‘bad guy’ of the book was tan with black eyes and black hair. Where are the brown eyes?”

I misheard and asked: “Brown guys?”

The teen laughed. “Well, brown EYES, but also brown guys!”

Another teen told me that she wanted to see different cultures, religious, and abilities represented in the books she and her friends read. These requests are not outlandish or difficult to fulfill. Everyone deserves representation, and they deserve to find it in quality books that present realistic contexts. If you start following #WeNeedDiverseBooks, you’ll understand more and more why this is important.

But now I’m going to let the teens speak for themselves (they tend to say it better anyway, when we give them the chance to).








And this one just kind of says it all…


Our wonderful teens.

Our wonderful teens.

Has YOUR library or school done a #WeNeedDiverseBooks program? I’d love to hear about it!


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