See What We See is a coalition of writers, scholars, educators, librarians, and activists who believe that books reflect what is valued in society and can therefore shape people’s attitudes and actions towards one another. All the people in “We the People” deserve to see their particular reality reflected in children’s literature, and yet the publishing industry primarily produces books that portray a white America. Stories about people of color too often are written by outsiders whose power and privilege are reflected on the page, whereas marginalized members of our society are given few opportunities to tell their own stories in their own way.
At See What We See we take our inspiration from the Council on Interracial Books for Children (CIBC), a groundbreaking advocacy group. Founded in 1965 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the CIBC fought to reduce the many barriers that prevented people of color from participating in the children’s publishing industry. We agree with CIBC President Beryle Banfield’s 1998 assertion that “the sense of social concern and social responsibility that existed at the time that the CIBC was established” has since diminished considerably.
See What We See aims to continue the work of the CIBC. Our investment in social justice—and not only diversity—requires that we vigorously defend the social justice, treaty, and civil rights gains of the latter half of the twentieth century by working towards a body of children’s literature that includes the histories and lives of all people who live in the United States, especially as told by writers of color.
See What We See has three primary objectives:
- To promote engaging books for young readers that accurately reflect the many cultures, distinct traditions, and varied realities of people of color in historical and contemporary contexts.
- To expose and track inequity in children’s publishing.
- To provide substantive, critical reviews of children’s and young adult books in order to create awareness of the omissions, myths, stereotypes, and distortions that misrepresent people of color.
The SWWS database links to reviews on many of the collaborator sites, such as American Indians in Children’s Literature, Edith Campbell’s Crazy Quilts, Zetta Elliott, Reading While White, DeColores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children, Latinxs in KidLit, Disability in KidLit, Africa Access, Rethinking Schools, and Teaching for Change.
We seek to engage in constructive dialogue with publishers, editors, writers, illustrators, book reviewers, educators, librarians, parents, and community activists. We intend the content of this site to be rigorous yet readable and accessible to all.
We hope especially to reach parents, teachers, and professors of pre-service education students because they introduce children to the books that will shape their perception of the world.
Related Reviews and Articles
American Indians in Children’s Literature. Established in 2006, American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society
Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves. Articles and books lists for early childhood educators on specific aspects of personal and social identity.
Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC). Established in 1963 at the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the CCBC is committed to identifying excellent literature for children and adolescents and bringing this literature to the attention of those adults who have an academic, professional, or career interest in connecting young readers with books. The CCBC also compiles annual statistics on the number of books published annually by and about people of color.
Africa Access Review. An online database with over 1,000 annotations and reviews of children’s books on Africa and the annual Children’s Africana Book Award.
“Something like an open letter to the children’s publishing industry” by Zetta Elliott. This article clearly explains the reason that See What We See was launched. As Elliott says, “What I am trying to say to children’s publishers is that the lack of books for children in our communities IS A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. I am not asking you to level the playing field as a ‘favor’ to people of color. I am asking you to work with us in our efforts to transform children’s lives.”
The Pirate Tree is a collective of children’s and young adult writers interested in children’s literature and social justice issues.
To learn more about See What We See, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.