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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Young People's Literature

While this guide focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion, children need books of all kinds. Children books must be a mirror and window to allow them to experience different cultures.


Like a string of beads, our unique differences and intricacies make us so appealing and attractive. We would not be as beautiful if we were all the same. It is the contrast and asymmetry that makes us worthwhile.—

Lindsey Lunsford, M.E.M., Second Edition DEI Fellow 




Diversity can be defined as the sum of the ways that people are both alike and different. Visible diversity is generally those attributes or characteristics that are external. However, diversity goes beyond the external to internal characteristics that we choose to define as ‘invisible’ diversity. Invisible diversity includes those characteristics and attributes that are not readily seen. When we recognize, value, and embrace diversity, we are recognizing, valuing, and embracing the uniqueness of each individual. 

Equity is not the same as formal equality. Formal equality implies sameness. Equity, on the other hand, assumes difference and takes difference into account to ensure a fair process and, ultimately, a fair (or equitable) outcome. Equity recognizes that some groups were (and are) disadvantaged in accessing educational and employment opportunities and are, therefore, underrepresented or marginalized in many organizations and institutions. The effects of that exclusion often linger systemically within organizational policies, practices, and procedures. Equity, therefore, means increasing diversity by ameliorating conditions of disadvantaged groups.

Inclusion means an environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully; are valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives; have equal access to resources and opportunities; and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. 

Retrieved from the American Library Association's ODLOS Glossary of Terms

Topics and Themes

  • Race and Ethnicity - diversity in race and ethnicity in the text
  • Social Justice - civil disobedience, advocacy, and attempts to seek justice for oppressed groups of people
  • Immigration - immigrant and emigrant experiences
  • LGBTQIA+ - featuring characters who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, or any identification within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum
  • Neurodiversity and Neurodivergence - featuring characters who have neurological variances and differences, such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD
  • Physical Disability - featuring characters with impairments that limit physical functioning
  • Mental Health - featuring characters with temporary, cyclical, or episodic mental illnesses and other mental health struggles