Jeanette Bradley, Illustrator Coordinator Southern New England
Introducing the Equity and Inclusion Committee
“Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.”
Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990
Children’s book publishing has been engaged in an ongoing conversation about diversity and the importance of diverse books to serve as both windows and mirrors for kids’ lives. Organizations such as We Need Diverse Books and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center have spurred the industry to increase the number of books published that reflect that almost half of American children are people of color. When thinking about how NESCBWI fits into this conversation, I was struck by the mission of SCBWI, which states we “support the creation of quality children’s literature… by fostering a vibrant community of individuals.”
NESCBWI doesn’t grow books; it grows book creators. Our purpose as an organization is to provide education and support for individual creators within the New England children’s literature community. Our strengths as a regional organization lie both in the individual creators that we have as members and in the decades of community building that many people have put into NESCBWI. When there is a history of marginalization in an industry, it is not enough to declare oneself diverse and move on. Moving toward a fully inclusive and equitable organization is a complex process that takes time and work. Which is why I am grateful to the volunteers who have stepped forward to shape our new initiative: Autumn Allen, Janet Costa Bates, Valerie Bolling, Ken Daley, Amitha Knight, Rajani LaRocca, Lisa Stringfellow, and Mia Wenjen. Together, this committee has decades of experience working on inclusion and equity initiatives in education, policy, and other organizations.
The mission of the NESCBWI Equity and Inclusion Committee is to create and enact initiatives that support increased equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout our region. By increasing access and support for writers and illustrators from groups historically marginalized and underrepresented in children’s literature, promoting education for members around issues of diversity and inclusion as it relates to publishing, and planning events and gatherings to support a diverse community, the committee hopes to increase the depth and quality of books that will meet the needs of all children.
In the coming year, we plan to: *Develop a strategic plan to increase membership among creators from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups in our region and to make current members who identify with those groups feel welcomed and valued; *Create more experiences that meet our diverse community’s needs; *Maintain an ongoing conversation about equity and inclusion through a column in our regional newsletter; and *Provide two Windows & Mirrors scholarships for our regional conference.
We also hope to hear from you. If there is something related to Equity and Inclusion that you would like to see in NESCBWI programming, please email Jeanette Bradley, Illustrator Coordinator Southern New England at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeanette Bradley is the NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator for Southern New England. Her author/illustrator debut picture book Love, Mama was published by Roaring Brook Press in 2018. She is also co-editor and illustrator of the forthcoming anthology No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making Change (Charlesbridge, 2020) and illustrator of When the Babies Came to Stay (Viking, 2020). Jeanette lives in Rhode Island with her wife and kids.
Lisa Stringfellow writes middle grade fiction and has taught middle school English and technology for 24 years. In her work, she has focused on culturally responsive literacy and issues of equity and social justice in the classroom. She co-facilitates an affinity group for Black and Latina students at her current school.