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#WeNeedDiverseBooks is a hashtag campaign launched by a group of American writers and activists to raise awareness of the lack of diversity in children’s and youth literature, as well as to encourage readers to diversify their personal collections with books featuring characters of different races, genders, sexual orientations and abilities.
On April 26th, 2014, the Tumblr blog WeNeedDiverseBooks was launched by young adult author Ellen Oh and other diversity advocates. According to its announcement post, the campaign was inspired by increased news media coverage of the lack of diversity in the children’s book industry, citing the New York Times op-ed “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” and CNN’s op-ed “’Where’s the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?’” which were published in March and April, respectively.
The post also instructed its supporters to bring further attention to the issue by participating in a three day campaign from May 1st to May 3rd. On May 1st, supporters would participate in a visual campaign by posting images using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks on social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr. On May 2nd, the focus would move to Twitter with further discussions based on the same hashtag, and on May 3rd, the campaign asks that people buy diverse children’s books as a way to “Diversify Your Shelves.” In less than a week, the post gained over 6,000 notes.
Though the campaign didn’t officially launch until May 1st, supporters began using the hashtag as soon as it was announced on April 26th. Many New York Times bestselling children’s and young adult authors tweeted out the hashtag including Gayle Foreman, Rainbow Rowell, Neil Gaiman and Jenny Han.
The hashtag #weneeddiversebooks was tweeted out over 64,000 times in the week following the announcement of the campaign. As of May 2nd, the official Twitter account for WeNeedDiverseBooks has over 1,000 followers. On May 2nd, in support of the campaign literary agent Michelle Witte introduced the hashtag #diversitywl so agents and editors could tweet out the kind of diverse stories they’re looking for.
On April 30th, 2014, book site BookRiot published a post titled “Jump into the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign, Help Change the World,” which explained the campaign. On May 1st, Slate published a post titled “#WeNeedDiverseBooks Goes Viral,” which focused on the campaign’s popularity and spread. On May 2nd, Buzzfeed posted a collection of photos focused on kids (shown below) from the WeNeedDiverseBooks Tumblr titled “18 Adorable Reasons We Need More Diverse Books.”
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