Dietrich Thompson

Children's literature

Author: Dtrain

Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s Books: II

Well, it has been one year since I self-published my Children’s book: Joshua’s Amazing Gift.  It was released in June 2016.  One of eleven books published by members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2016.  My first post on this topic Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s literature, explained my frustration when I searched for books for my son and learned how few books that feature diverse characters there are.  I set a goal for myself.  My goal was to increase the number of books with diverse characters.  Over time, I have received several recommendations from people who read my first post:  One of the more interesting recommendations was for African folk stories.   I have found these stories open another trove of content, not generally coming out of the United States.

When I started working on the book, it was projected by one of the presenters at a “Meet-up” I attended that the number of books featuring African American characters published in 2016 would stay flat at around 11% for the year.   However, a University of Wisconsin study found that the number of books published in 2016 by African American Authors that featured African America characters stood at just 7.6%.  In comparison,

Dietrich Thompson Author

the number of books featuring white characters was 73.3%.  The trend for other ethnic groups was similarly situated.

The bias extends beyond ethnicity.  Gender bias is another area we should raise our awareness of.  According to an article written by Janice McCabe of Florida State University, this gender bias even surfaces in books where the main characters are animals.  Male characters appear 23% of the time compared to 7.5% female.

The point is that there is a lot of opportunity for authors and illustrators to create stories that reflect the market we live in.   Self-publishing has two big roles.  It definitely requires you to act creatively and use your business sense.

The artist in me has been honored by the amount of positive feedback I’ve received from parents and children.  For example, one little boy taught his class the songs in Joshua’s Amazing Gift.  Another little boy listens to the eBook version over and over so he can learn to read along.  There was even a budding editor who was trying to work out a grammar issue.  It was a nuanced verse of a song.  I am impressed with the idea that someone so young was thinking of that.   Reading live to children has also been encouraging.  Schools and libraries often hold “Author Days,” when an author comes to visit and reads to the children, then offers their book for sale to parents.  The other area that the children’ book industry is very reliant on is book reviews.  You can pay to have book reviews completed.  It’s an important thing to consider as a self-publisher.

The entrepreneur role has been much more of a challenge.   I appreciate the roles sales, marketing, finance and technical functions play in organizations.  Whether you navigate the riddles of social media or hear the hard pangs of sales calls that go unanswered, sales and marketing is a critical but challenging task.   About 20% of my sales have been to county libraries.  I’ve learned that a lot of libraries want local people to request a book before they will consider it.  Elementary schools generally have contracts with large book retailers and they use fundraisers to promote their book sales.  This is another sales channel traditionally published authors use.  Book publishing firms market their traditionally published authors using this method.

There have been some surprises.  For example, I have a profound gratitude for the global community.  I have received “Likes” on Facebook and retweets from around the globe.  We tend to hear more about diversity in the U.S., but other parts of the world seemed just as energized about the topic.

There is an element of the Internet that is very unsavory.  Some people react extremely negatively to this topic.   For example, I received a tweet that stated, “Diversity Advocates like you should be burned to death.”  Given this is a children’s book, and not meant to be political or controversial, I was surprised.  Luckily, the amount of positive responses far outweighs the negative.  In my experience, Facebook users tend to visit my author website less than the Twitter users, but the Facebook crowd seems to stay engaged longer.  The conversion difference is 12:1 with Facebook and 2:1 with Twitter, the decision for where to direct marketing dollars is not straight forward.  It’s critical to decide where to direct the limited resources.  Then there is the finance aspect–cash flow is no joke.  I have even had to defend my website against various spam attacks etc.  I feel that I’ve grown as a small business owner.

Some of the responses I’ve received have stated that it shouldn’t matter what ethnic group the characters belong to-we should just have good stories.  My question is: if that’s true, whyhave humans drawn pictures of things that we find beautiful and important for so long?  I think because it does matter what the character looks like.   If you consider everything from 18thcentury Italian paintings to Native American artifacts, the subject of the art matters.  When archeologists dig up books from our time, will they see what we valued and considered beautiful?  Moreover, children of my targeted age group (5-9) are learning to read and rely heavily on the pictures in the book to comprehend the story.  Therefore, the characters should reflect the world they live in.  Finally, I believe there are parents who are very conscious of what is poured into their children.  The message of the story and the beauty of the illustrations work together to leave a powerful impression on young children.

As is the case with most things worth investing in, the goal of contributing to the world is greater than the struggle.  I am going to create another story in the coming months. I  am using Kickstarter to crowd-fund the production because I know there are others who feel the same way I do.  Excited by another opportunity to delight the children who enjoyed the first book,we are, once again, going to provide more options to people who expect great stories that reflect our diverse world.   My Kickstarter Campaign will launch at the end of July 2017. Please follow me on Facebook or my Author website if you wish to support my next project.

 

New Book coming soon. But we need your support.

Hi everyone, I want to let you all know about an exciting next step in my journey. My second book is now in pre-production. Joshua’s Amazing Adventures is the current working title. This story, like the last book, follows Joshua as he overcomes a big decision we all face each morning. Should we stay in our cozy bed and continue to dream or seize the day and the adventure that awaits us.
To produce this new book I am using a Crowdfunding model. Kickstarter is the platform I have chosen to partner with to make this dream real. So look for more information on the project in the coming months. I am offering great awards including opportunities to make donations to schools, and other learning institutions. If you know someone who you feel would be interested in supporting this project, please share this post.

Book Review for 2016

Books Reviewed for 2016

I Wonder

Celebrating Daddies Doin’ Work

By Doyin Richards

 

I feel like this book is broken into three sections. The first section I’ll call the conversation. Next, you have “The Lesson.” The final section is the “refrain.” is My son and I enjoyed reading this book together. As we read through the scenes he kept saying, “Daddy, you do that with me.” We really enjoyed the pace of the book and felt it really captures the moments that are special for you and your children. You may not notice the moment because you’re in it, but children remember them. Thank you.

 

ADA TWIST SCIENTIST

By Andrea Beaty and Illustrated by David Roberts

 

This is a memorable little mystery wrapped in a wonderful lesson in self-directed learning. The story follows a little girl as she tries to solve riddle of an odd smell. She tests her theories and her family in the process. My son and I enjoyed the journey tremendously. One humbling surprise, my son is was the first person in the family to figure out the mystery. My wife and I have read this story with my son for the past three months and he was the only person to figure out the mystery.   It just goes to show you how incredible children’s minds are. Well done Author.

 

MARVELOUS ME (Inside and out)

By Lisa Bullard and Illustrated by Brand Brandon Reibeling

 

This is a tail with several superb layers. It’s about a little boy named Alex who imagines all of the things about himself that he is proud of. His imagination is boundless. There are some surprises in the story. However, I won’t be dropping any “Spoilers.” My son enjoyed the main character’s energy throughout the story. He seemed to relate to Alex. Finally, the illustrations are excellent; they capture the story moments perfectly.

 

Daddy Calls Me Man

By Angela Johnson and Illustrated Rhonda Mitchell

 

First of all the beauty of the illustrations immediately strikes a chord reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance. They are marvelous. The book has four short stories that feel like poems. It’s amazing how the phenomenal pictures capture the stories perfectly.   In fact, as I read the stories to my son, he began to make up his own stories within the book. This is a sure sign of a hit, in my home.

Author Day Visit

Thank you to the wonderful children of Bright Star Kids Academy for making my first book reading so much fun.  We sang! We laughed and it was great.

Author Days

Author Days

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Looking for Creative Inspiration

Like most artists, I can usually find inspiration in other art forms, but everyday life provides an interesting experience too.

Last week, my son and I were at the park.  He was climbing on the monkey bars and the jungle gym when a little girl and her friend walked over clutching their dolls.  The first little girl turned to the other children and announced,  ”Girls don’t play on the monkey bars,” and pulled her friend away. Her father and I smiled at each other.   Being the provocateur that I am, I asked my son “Do girls play on the monkey bars too?”  He said, “ Yes Daddy.”  On his own he went over to the little girls and said,  ”I’ve seen girls play on the monkey bars.”  They looked at him as if to consider his comments.  Then they went back to their dolls.  Five minutes later I saw those little girls climbing on the monkey bars and I thought to myself good for them.  Then the first little girl came over to me and said, “I’m going to go climb on these brown monkey bars.  They are like the ones at my school except they’re brown and my school’s are blue.“ I smiled and said, ” They look fun.”

I inferred that she always wanted to climb on all the monkey bars, but somewhere or somehow she believed couldn’t because she was a girl.  Sometimes, all any of us need is someone to tell us a thing is possible for us to imagine ourselves doing it.

I thought that this was an inspirational experience for a children’s story.  It was an interesting situation to witness.  I’m hoping when this little girl goes to school on Monday, she’s going to “Lean in” to those blue monkey bars.

Diversity & Inclusion Children’s literature

My Story

One day my son came home and would not take off his shoes. When we asked him “why,” he said some other children had told him his feet were dirty because they were brown. It was a reminder that how we needed to reinforce the positive self-image. Moreover, I think the other children’s development could benefit from more developmental exposure. So we decided to search for more children’s books that featured diverse characters. In this part of the country, finding these types of books proved to be very challenging. At one point, we asked a sales woman if she had any books with diverse characters, to which she replied ” I have some books with animals from Africa.” This didn’t help. Next, we searched the web and friends sent us books. For example, we found some Sesame Street books focused on appreciating differences and similarities. However, the options remained limited and dated. At this point I decided that I would Self-publish a book.

My brother shared a great organization called “ We Need More Diverse Books.” The main focus for this organization seems to be to provide a vehicle for authors like myself to connect our content with readers interested in stories which feature diverse characters. I was encouraged to find like-minded artists.

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To develop my story “Joshua’s Amazing Gift,” I attended Diversity in Books workshop sponsored by an organization I joined called the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. One of the speakers said the number of books which feature an African American Character has largely stayed flat for more than 20 years. This is mostly true for other groups in America. Another audience member commented on the lack children with disabilities being represented in stories as well. So I am going to continue to encourage representation of everyone. If you agree that Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s literature is an important goal, please add comments.

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