School for Children

School for Children 6th Graders Discuss Stereotypes on Book Cover Art with Knopf Editors

Posted by Katie Peshut on March 20, 2013

On March 13, School for Children (SFC) 6th grade students (11/12s) met with Knopf editors Erin Clarke and Michelle Frey for a conversation about cover design and marketing decisions.

The impetus for this meeting began back in October during a booktalking session with Children's Librarian Allie Bruce. An 11-year-old girl in Jamie Steinfeld's 11/12s Humanities class asked "Why is there a bird on that cover, when every other cover you've shown us so far has a picture of the main character?"  A big question, with a complicated answer.

The book in question, Julia Alvarez's Return to Sender, is about a Mexican girl; the other books discussed up until then had centered on white characters. That 15-minute booktalking session turned into a 2-hour conversation about book covers, and the class started visiting the library weekly to discuss portrayals of race, gender, sexuality, body image, and other aspects of identity in covers and content. With help from the SFC's Diversity Director Anshu Wahi, the students began to explore how to take action against the injustices they found especially troubling.

Brimming with many questions and ideas, the children were ready to talk to someone in the publishing business. Jennifer Brown, Director of the Center for Children's Literature at Bank Street College of Education, put them in touch with the editors at Knopf.

During their conversation with the editors, the children asked questions like "Have you ever been surprised by how a cover turned out?" (yes) and "why do covers always have such perfect-looking girls?" (they wish they knew!).

Next, the students will choose an aspect of identity (ethnicity, gender, sexuality) and create a resource list of books they feel are important. Check out Allie Bruce's blog post/s for more information.

Submitted by Allie Bruce, Children's Librarian

tagged book editors, school for children, stereotypes,
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