Kirkus Collections helps librarians build and continually update collections curated with both literary merit and thematic issues in mind. Our inaugural lists focus on diversity in children’s and young adult literature and are the result of a process that builds on the diverse voices of Kirkus’ children’s and YA reviewers, who have reviewed more than 50,000 books over a 30-year period, and the work of the editors of Kirkus Reviews, with added input from a team of diversity experts who help ensure that our selections meet modern standards of sensitivity and respect.
Kirkus’ diversity collections go beyond grouping by race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or dis/ability to consider the desired reading “experience.” This consideration of experience—categorized as learning, cultural identification, or inclusion—is integral to the effectiveness of Kirkus Collections’ recommendations, as it addresses the demand for contextual information around diversity content. For example, is the reader looking for a book to learn about a historical event or tradition (experience: learning); is she trying to find a coming-of-age story with a main character who experiences similar social and family dynamics (experience: identification); or does she want a rollicking science-fiction book with a hero who looks like her (experience: inclusion)? Using Kirkus Collections, her librarian can help her find all three!
All selections are recommended not only for their thematic match and reading experience, but also for their literary merit. Before being added to a list, the quality of the writing and/or illustration in each book must meet the discerning standards of Kirkus Reviews, the toughest and most authoritative voice in book recommendations since 1933. With some exceptions, books included feature diverse protagonists, not sidekicks, so readers see characters of color and of diverse faiths, LGBTQIAP characters, and disabled characters doing rather than helping. Within each broad category, further standards include scrutiny for stereotyping, measurement of authenticity, and avoidance of tired, damaging tropes.
Because the first priority of Kirkus Collections is to get diverse books into libraries across America, we have partnered with Baker & Taylor, the country’s leading library wholesaler. We aim to make ordering our recommendations as simple as possible—no need to set up accounts with new vendors, no need to learn yet another technology solution. Kirkus Collections are available in Title Source 360, where you can view the full lists, identify duplicates already in your inventory, and order the books just as you do any other title from Baker & Taylor.
To help librarians generate awareness of their acquisition of more diverse books, we created the “My Library. All Voices.” community outreach campaign. Designed to attract new cardholders who may have struggled to find books that would connect on a personal or cultural level for their children in the past, as well as to highlight the importance of diverse reading for all from an early age, the My Library. All Voices. campaign offers direct-mail pieces for free download or printed for purchase, posters, bookmarks, and an array of free online marketing tools, including one month’s worth of graphics for social media posting, as well as related articles on diversity from well-known authors and leaders in the field, available for publication in email newsletters. (Visit the Community Outreach section of this site to access the materials.)
To assemble titles for our launch, Kirkus Collections began with positive Kirkus reviews of books with diverse content, which have been checked against resources such as Disability in KidLit, Latinxs in Kid Lit, and American Indians in Children’s Literature and also reviewed by experts in the various categories in order to identify those books that meet current standards of sensitivity and respect. In order to ensure that, going forward, books selected continue to meet those standards, Kirkus is making two changes to our assignment practices. First, reviewers of children’s and teen books must participate in a training that will help them identify problematic tropes and representations. And second, because there is no substitute for lived experience, as much as possible books with diverse subject matter and protagonists are assigned to “own voices” reviewers, to identify both those books that resonate most with cultural insiders and those books that fall short. In the case that a questionable book slips through these various filters, it will be withdrawn from Kirkus Collections.
Trust Kirkus Collections to find diverse books that meet modern standards of sensitivity and respect as well as high expectations for literary merit, and introduce children to a more personal, more profound reading experience!
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