Every book we read changes us. Each story becomes part of us and expands our world. The characters we meet challenge, inspire and comfort us. They teach us about the world and introduce us to friends in unexpected places. They dare us to explore our dreams, to push beyond what we thought was possible for our lives. Books give children a license to create new realities for their lives. The love and strength that comes from reading the world is an overwhelming force for positive change.LitWorld

As a literacy organization, people often think that LitWorld is focused on the ABCs and mechanics of reading. What our mission and vision are really centered around is empowerment through literacy. We cultivate fearless, lifelong readers who use literacy to author lives of independence, hope and joy. It all starts with access to an abundance of stories and a diverse reading life.

Diversity is a broad term with many layers, but at the heart of it all is this: Every child must see her own story reflected in the texts she reads. Every child must read about people, places and cultures that differ from her own. And every child must read widely across genres from fiction to poetry to informational texts and everything in between to discover her passions and explore all possibilities for her life.

A diverse reading life is transformational for children, just as it was transformational for you. Whether it was seeing a reflection of yourself in a Judy Blume coming of age tale or discovering through a Langston Hughes verse that expressing your voice through poetry felt liberating, there have been “lightbulb” moments in your reading history. Moments when you discovered, “I’m not the only one,” moments when you were inspired to make a change in your life, to set a goal that felt like an achievable stretch and moments that encouraged you to keep goingLitWorld when you felt frustrated or lonely.

Reading gives a child a frame of reference for the unfamiliar and unexpected life events. By experiencing loss, or the struggle to make friends, or the hard work of being self-confident through a character’s story, children are building resilient muscles that ready them to take on similar challenges in their own lives. Reading beams a hopeful light and shows a child that their emotions make them human, that others have gone down the road before them and are stronger for the journey.

The publishing industry is embracing the diversity call to action set forth by educators, authors and parents. Uniting for better racial and cultural  representation in children’s literature ensures that self-discovery through reading can belong to every child. Making children’s literature more inclusive is also a giant leap towards a peaceful, fearless world. As the poet Anna Grossnickle Hines wrote, “Peace is when all of them become us.” Peace begins through literacy, from the earliest age as children make friends with “the other,” realizing that differences are beautiful and a common humanity unites us all.

A diverse reading diet supports a child’s emotional health and social development the same way that nutritious foods lead to physical growth. The best LitWorldand most joyful proof comes, as always, from children’s own stories about what reading means to them. This spring LitWorld asked LitKids in Mississippi, Harlem, Kathmandu and Kibera to talk about the magical powers they have discovered by reading. The girls and boys talked about having a courageous heart like Mulan, about being adventurous like Sylvester and possessing a creative spirit like Thea Stilton. They talked about using the power of story to launch their dreams. Dreams of becoming a civil engineer, an interpreter for the deaf, a teacher, a nurse.

We give thanks for this moment we are in now when the world of children’s lit is expanding to keep up with the big dreams of children. Authors and literary heroes like Sandra Cisneros, Kwame Alexander, Tim Federle, Janet Wong, Meg Medina and the great Jacqueline Woodson, who has said she writes to make sure no one has to walk the world feeling invisible, are writing a more equitable world and paving the way for fearless reading. LitWorld Founder and literacy expert Pam Allyn curated a special reading collection themed around diversity. Together we can create school and home libraries that are inclusive, affirming and inspiring so that every kid can know the power of fearless reading.