Gaithersburg Book Festival to Put Spotlight on the Lack of Diversity in Literature

by We Need Diverse Books

Panel Discussion Features Top Children’s and Young Adult Authors at the Forefront of the “We Need Diverse Books” Movement


Gaithersburg, Md. – April 28, 2015 – While 37 percent of the U.S. population is comprised of people of color, this diversity is not reflected in the books our children are reading. Only 10 percent of children’s books contained multicultural content, according to publisher Lee and Low Books. At the sixth annual Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 16, top authors including WNDB team members at the forefront of the We Need Diverse Books movement will lead a panel discussion that explores why there has been such a lack of diversity in publishing, and what can be done to ensure that this trend does not continue. The festival also will promote greater diversity with the debut of a Multilingual Story Time tent, featuring stories in various languages throughout the day.


“This is a discussion that needs to be happening at book festivals, schools, libraries and homes everywhere,” said Ellen Oh, founder and president of We Need Diverse Books and author of the young adult fantasy trilogy, The Prophecy Series. “This is how we can change the way people read. This is how we help raise a new generation of empathetic citizens. And we are grateful to the Gaithersburg Book Festival for helping us keep the conversation going.”


At the Festival, Oh will moderate a panel of authors that include Aisha Saeed, Tracey Baptiste and Gene Luen Yang.


We Need Diverse Books is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. The organization is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy and, ultimately, equality. The movement got its informal start last year as a Twitter exchange between Oh and Malinda Lo, in which they lamented about the lack of diversity in children’s literature. When Oh discussed taking action, numerous authors, bloggers and others in the industry offered to join in. Their efforts quickly grew into a global movement that demanded the attention of the publishing industry, the media and readers everywhere. The collective group planned a three-day event last May to raise awareness, brainstorm solutions and take action (Diversify Your Shelves), with Saeed priming the pump with the first tweet including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag.


The organization’s current activities include the establishment of The Walter Dean Myers Award and Grants, which will honor diverse books each year; the development of an internship program to help diversify publishing from the inside out, and compiling resources for teachers and librarians. In 2016, the organization will host the first Children’s Literature Diversity Festival in Washington, D.C.


The We Need Diverse Books panel is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, at 11:15 a.m. in the Ogden Nash Pavilion. The Festival, which is free to attend, takes place on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall (31 S. Summit Ave., Gaithersburg, MD 20877).


Multilingual Story Time New at the Book Festival

In addition to the panel, the Gaithersburg Book Festival is expanding its own diversity activities by adding a second Story Time tent exclusively focused on stories in multiple languages. Sponsored by The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), the Multilingual Story Time Tent will feature stories written in Spanish, French, Farsi, Hindi, Korean and Vietnamese, read by students and educators from USG. The readings will last 20 minutes, and are scheduled every half hour beginning at 10 a.m.




About We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. How we define diversity: We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. For more information, visit

About the Gaithersburg Book Festival

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is an annual all-day celebration of books, writers and literary excellence. Now in its sixth year, the Festival has become one of the premier literary events in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The 2015 Festival will be on Saturday, May 16, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall, in Olde Towne Gaithersburg, Md. Other activities include author appearances, discussions and book signings; writing workshops; a Children’s Village; onsite sales of new and used books; literary exhibitors and food, drink, ice cream and more. Admission and shuttle service from Shady Grove Metro and Lakeforest Mall are FREE. For more information please visit