Reach Out and Read’s National Book Committee meets regularly to review the books that are made available through our catalogs. At the heart of the committee’s mission is ensuring that the books given out by our providers represent the values stated in the Reach Out and Read Book Policies.
It is a priority that program books reflect the widest possible representation of the children and families we serve, with stories that are relevant and engaging, accurately reflect and affirm a diverse range of identities, cultures, and histories, and contain illustrations that are colorful and recognizable to young children.
Over the last year, the Committee has been at the center of three initiatives promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. These include creating internal vendor booklists for Affiliates and Sites that highlight titles representative of all the children we serve–throughout all communities across the United States–and collaborations with both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) authors of the Report on the Impact of Racism and with the Booklist Subcommittee of the AAP Council on Early Childhood.
As Karin Mahony MEd, MSW, Interim Book Committee Chair, states: “This year has provided a wonderful opportunity for the Book Committee to collaborate with two AAP groups. The work we are doing now in educating ourselves and our network on the importance of promoting diversity in children’s books, and our Committee’s work picking new titles that we hope to include in our catalogs, will not only create shared reading time that affirms the life experience of more of the children we serve. It will also aid in furthering the discussions on equity and the richness that diversity brings to our communities.”
Both the AAP and ROR are dedicated to creating a healthy environment with learning and growth opportunities for the children of this nation and both are committed to continuing to work together to tackle the systemic issues preventing children from thriving. Recognition that healthy development is affected by the way children do or do not see themselves reflected in books infuses Reach Out and Read’s mutually beneficial work with the two AAP groups. This work includes both identifying and advancing a broad range of high-quality titles highlighting and including people of diverse races, ethnicities, family structures and abilities, and advocating for their addition to our catalogues–and spotlighting more widely-available titles that can be recommended externally to parents through booklists published on the AAP parents’ website Healthy Children.org.
The team efforts of the AAP Booklist Subcommittee, the AAP authors group, and the ROR Book Committee combine to form what Dr. Maria Trent, Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins and co-author of the AAP Report on the Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health, has informally termed the “Diverse and Inclusive Books for Children Collaborative.” In her words, “The collaborative group leverages AAP policy, the mission of Reach out and Read, and the guiding principles developed by the AAP Early Literacy Subcommittee…to ensure that developmentally appropriate books are accessible to pediatricians, practices, and families in the United States.”
While circumstances change, the goals remain the same: to give young children a foundation for success through the power of early literacy in promoting the healthy development of young children. We at Reach Out and Read understand that a true foundation for success involves not only the mind and development of an individual child but the creation of a healthy, accepting society in which children of all means and backgrounds can flourish.