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Ellen Oh Reminds Attendees: “We Need Diverse Books”

author ellen oh
Author Ellen Oh, co-founder of We Need Diverse Books, makes the case for publishing diverse authors. USED photo by Joshua Hoover.

Ellen Oh, an author and co-founder of  We Need Diverse Books, began her address to the 2016 NBRS educators with a statistic: although 37% of Americans of persons of color, they are reflected in 10% of all children’s books. This lack of inclusive representations deprives both minority and majority children (and their parents) access to the wealth of stories and immense storytelling gifts of people from all backgrounds, she argued.

Oh drew on her own background as a Korean-American to discuss her own path to writing (she was an entertainment lawyer at one time) and to expand the definition of diversity to include everyone: children of all races and ethnicities, children with disabilities, and children who are “different.”

Since its inception, We Need Diverse Books has conducted a symposium on  diversity in publishing and sponsored contents, internships, mentorships, and other supports for writers who tell inclusive stories. We Need Diverse Books also offers the annual Walter award and Walter grant, named for the African American writer Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014), with whose quote Oh began her talk: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.”  Listen to an excerpt of Oh’s talk. Learn more at We Need Diverse Books.

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