We all have a story to tell. Mine starts with learning to read at age four and instantly falling in love with books. I was that child who wrote alternate endings and sequels to my most treasured stories. While most of my friends saved their allowances for baby dolls and toy cars, I saved mine for school book fairs. I was always the last to finish choosing—how could I pick just a few books when there were so many great adventures to own?
I grew up in a very diverse community with people from many different backgrounds. I was fortunate enough to taste homemade foods from Haiti, India, Italy, Puerto Rico, and other faraway places. I marveled at the multitude of ways my friends styled their hair and wore their clothing. I experienced music from all over the world and even learned a few dance moves. As a child, I thought every neighborhood was like mine—a beautiful mixture of this great big world we live in.
When I grew up, I became the parent of a multiracial child with a learning disability. I struggled to find books with characters that represented my son, my family, or the diversity of my neighbors. While perusing my own childhood library of books, I realized how homogenous the characters, settings, and plots were. I wondered how many children out there did not see themselves or their peers in books. So when I decided to pursue a career in writing, I knew I wanted to help create books that all children could relate to.
That’s why I was thrilled when Center for Responsive Schools asked me if I’d be interested in helping to launch Avenue A Books, a children’s graphic novel imprint. CRS values the vastness of human diversity and is “committed to fostering attitudes, behaviors, practices, and knowledge that promote and habituate diversity, inclusion, and equity.” Avenue A Books supports this mission with its goal to publish a diverse line of books for kids that enriches social and emotional learning. Kids will see themselves and their peers reflected in stories that depict real-world challenges they experience both at school and at home.
As managing editor, I am honored to work collaboratively with a diverse range of authors and illustrators. I feel strongly about providing space for our authors and illustrators to bring their own diverse experiences and identities—their stories—into these books. My job as editor is to help shape their ideas into fleshed-out stories with authentic characters and settings. Our first books include themes on acceptance, inclusion, responsibility, and identity.
Due to publishers’ increased awareness of the need for diversity in children’s books, more diverse voices are being published. I’m proud to say that my own personal library has diversified immensely. I can’t wait to add upcoming Avenue A Books titles to my collection. If you’d like more information on diversity in children’s literature, check out We Need Diverse Books.
We all have a story to tell. What’s yours?
Written by Sera Rivers, Managing Editor