Depictions of Diversity in Books Recommended for Storytime: A Cautionary Tale

Erin Ingram, Maria Cahill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elements of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in diverse books support children's intellectual, social, and emotional development. Public library storytime programs serve as venues to showcase books with characters of varied backgrounds, identities, and experiences who may or may not reflect those of the communities the libraries serve. Because storytime providers often rely on online resources to plan their programs, it is important to investigate the presence and quality of EDI elements in books recommended for storytimes by these resources. The present study analyzed the text, illustrations, and WorldCat metadata for a random sample of 481 children's books recommended by six popular online resources for storytime planning. Results revealed an overall lack of EDI in the recommended books with few characters representing parallel cultures, living with a disability or chronic illness, practicing a religion other than Christianity, or communicating in a language other than English. The paper includes implications for storytime providers and library administrators in the areas of program planning, professional development, and program assessment.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Even though publishing statistics indicate that books with underrepresented or marginalized identities may be more difficult to find than those with characters with privileged backgrounds and identities, storytime providers can work through the difficulties by harnessing diversity-minded resources. In line with a preference for informal learning indicated by many librarians and library workers (), two major resources for finding diverse book recommendations can be found for free and online. One major resource is the body of awards for diverse books given by ALA and other library and cultural organizations (see ). For diversity in parallel cultures, look for winners of the American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Awards, the Arab American Book Award sponsored by the Arab American National Museum, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Pura Belpré Award. For diversity in disabilities and developmental differences, look for winners of the Schneider Family Book Award and the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award. For diversity in LGBTQ characters, look for recommendations from the Rainbow List and the Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award. The other major resource is recommendations from websites and blogs specifically focused on promoting high-quality diverse books for children (see ). These include websites from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, The Brown Bookshelf, De Colores, and the International Board on Books for Young People, and the blogs of individual literature experts such as Cynthia Leitich Smith and Debbie Reese. These resources provide descriptions of books that can help storytime providers add diverse books into previously chosen storytime themes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2022.


  • children's programming
  • diversity
  • equity
  • inclusion
  • public library

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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