This month for Reading Wildly, my staff and I read #OwnVoices titles. #OwnVoices is a snappy name for "books with diverse characters that are written by people who share those identities" says Kayla Whaley in her post #OwnVoices: Why We Need Diverse Authors in Children's Literature. We all read that post before our book discussion.
We have been trying to focus on diverse books for several years now, keeping track and aiming to include diverse titles in our storytimes and booktalking programs as much as possible. But this month, we specified that books read should be written by diverse authors. There were lots of great observations by my staff as we were sharing our booktalks. People felt that knowing that they were reading #OwnVoices authors helped them connect with characters and made the characters feel authentic.
Why does reading #OwnVoices titles matter for reader's advisory? Because we should be putting these books into our patrons hands. As gatekeepers, it's our job to seek out and champion these books. The books shared at our meeting are from a wide variety of genres - contemporary realistic, fantasy, science fiction, horror - and have myriad possibilities for suggesting during reader's advisory transactions. We need to keep diverse books and especially #OwnVoices titles at the forefront of our minds so that we're not forgetting them as we suggest books, put together book lists, and choose titles for displays.
Here's what we read this month:
- Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson (#OwnVoices: author is African American)
- As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds (#OwnVoices: author is African American)
- Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates (#OwnVoices: author is African American)
- The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon Flake (#OwnVoices: author is African American)
- The Buried Bones Mystery (Clubhouse Mysteries) by Sharon Draper (#OwnVoices: author is African American)
- Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh (#OwnVoices: many (all) of the authors in this collection of diverse stories are #OwnVoices authors)
- George by Alex Gino (#OwnVoices: author is transgender)
- Hoodoo by Ronald Smith (#OwnVoices: author is African American)
- Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth (#OwnVoices: author is African-American from the Bronx)
- Lola Levine is Not Mean by Monica Brown (#OwnVoices: author is Peruvian-American)
- Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway (#OwnVoices: author is half-Japanese)
- On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (#OwnVoices: author has autism)
- Run by Kody Keplinger (#OwnVoices: author is legally blind)
- Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins (#OwnVoices: author is Indian)
- We Were Here by Matt de la Pena (#OwnVoices: author is Mexican-American)
- The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani (#OwnVoices: author is half-Indian)
- The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass (#OwnVoices: author is African American)
I asked my folks how they chose their #OwnVoices title(s) and many of them chose to read something off the list of possibilities that one of my librarians created. Finding #OwnVoices titles can be a little more involved than finding a book in a certain genre. It may be difficult to tell by the author's name alone (although you might think you can).
My first step is locating books with diverse content, since that tends to be a little easier. And then I do a little research on the author to find out about their background and experiences. One of my librarians also suggested utilizing award-winners such as the Coretta Scott King Award and the Pura Belpre Award, which are awarded to African American authors/illustrators and Latinx author/illustrators respectively.
Next month, we're reading romance novels, which some are very excited about and some are NOT excited about. ;)
I think we've got plenty of ideas for teen romance, but would you suggest any love stories (crushes, etc.) for middle-graders or chapter book readers?