Q & A: We Need Diverse Books talks about Scholastic Reading Club collaboration

Michael Barrett  //  Nov 6, 2015

Q & A: We Need Diverse Books talks about Scholastic Reading Club collaboration

On Tuesday, we shared the great news that Scholastic Reading Club and the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books teamed up to answer the call for the need of diverse books with a special edition We Need Diverse Books Scholastic Reading Club flyer - offering 75 key book titles for grades 4–8 that feature diverse characters and storylines.

Featuring award-winning titles, beloved classics and new releases, this special edition Scholastic Reading Club flyer will reach more than 100,000 classrooms and 2.5 million students in time for the holidays(*).

We spoke with Dhonielle Clayton, Vice President of Librarian Services for We Need Diverse Books™ about the importance of this collaboration and how #WeNeedDiverseBooks transformed into an important social movement for chidren's literature.


Q: What inspired you to collaborate with Scholastic Reading Club?

A: When I was a kid, I looked forward to my ELA teacher handing out the Scholastic Reading Club flyers. I would stick my nose into the little booklet and inhale the inky and papery scent, and soak in all the wonder that existed within those pages. Those flyers held magic. I’d go home, take out my best pen and circle everything. My parents would fill in the little boxes on the back and attach a check. The next day, I’d march into the classroom with my envelope and proudly give it to my teacher. Then, I’d proceed to ask my teacher every day if the books had arrived or I’d take unnecessary trips to the front office just to see if those white boxes were stacked beside the secretary’s desk. The Scholastic Reading Club was an integral part of my life as a reader.

I leaped at the chance to revisit a huge part of my childhood. I wanted to be part of creating a flyer that the 9 year-old me needed to see. 


Q: What can teachers and parents expect in the “We Have Diverse Books” special flyer?

A: Teachers and parents can expect to find books that reflect a diverse and varied world of children, readers, and writers. The We Need Diverse Book non-profit’s definition of diversity is inclusive of a wide range of identities, such as LGBTQIA, racial and ethnicity, disability, religious, and SES. 


INTERVIEW and VIDEO: Editorial Directors, Ann Marie Wong and Preeti Chhibber talk about #WeNeedDiverseBooks Scholastic Reading Club collection 


Q: What role can teachers and parents play to help kids find diverse books?

A: Teachers and parents are vital gatekeepers in children’s books, and can make a huge impact on helping kids find diverse books. Teachers can make sure their classroom libraries and class novels reflect a variety of experiences. They can commit to having a balance of narratives by asking themselves questions about their book selections and choices: Do I have books that contain non-dominant family structures and socioeconomic statuses? Do I have book selections that feature people of color that aren’t historical or issue books? Do I have book selections that showcase children with physical and mental differences? Do I have book selections that reveal a wide range of children with varied sexual orientations?

Parents can make active choices to make sure that kids are reading a variety of books. Ones that mirror their experiences as well as books that are windows into the experiences of others. Parents can also commit to making sure their children discuss characters that are like them and unlike them.


Q: What are some of your favorite books that feature diverse characters and stories?

A: I have a TON of favorite stories that feature diverse characters. I’m a librarian so this is a dangerous question to ask. Here are just some of my favorites:

  •  The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
  • Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
  • The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
  • The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
  • The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales
  • Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • Calamari and Kimchi by Rose Kent
  • What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson
  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  • Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
  • The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
  • How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle
  • Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
  • George by Alex Gino
  • Shooting Kabul by NK. Senzai
  • Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman
  • Masterpiece by Elise Broach


Q: Where can people go to learn more about diverse books?

A: People can check out the following blogs that have become go-tos for me: Disability in Kid Lit, DiversifYA, Diversity in YA, American Indians in Children’s Literature, Latinos in KidLit, The Gay YA, Rich In Color, BrownBookshelf, and StackedBooks.org. Also, the We Need Diverse Books website is a great resource to to learn more about diverse books as well.


Thanks, Dhonielle. Be sure to follow Dhonielle @BrownBookWorm, as well as We Need Diverse Books at @diversebooks and http://weneeddiversebooks.org/.


To learn more, about Scholastic Reading Club, visit: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/ScholasticReadingClub.


(*) All book orders are placed through a classroom teacher, and, for every purchase, the teacher earns reward points that are redeemable for books and other classroom materials.  


In case you missed it, here is our Reading Club flyer reveal:



Courtesy of We Need Diverse Books/Dhonielle Clayton