Diversity Grand Prize Award

At Story Shares, it’s no secret that our mission is to create ‘relevant and engaging’ content for students in middle and high school who read below grade level. Often, the approach to reading instruction or improvement is focused around building technical skills and using assessments to accurately measure progress. At Story Shares, we prioritize genuine engagement with reading first and foremost because we know that reading improvement cannot happen without reading practice and that meaningful practice won’t happen if there’s no enjoyment in reading.

Struggling with reading as a student in middle school, high school, or beyond can come with a whole host of negative associations with reading practice. Often, students who read below grade level do not identify as readers, are embarrassed, or are completely bored by content meant for young children.

That’s why each year we proudly launch our Story of the Year Contest.  We want to inspire a love of reading in as many students as possible and this means we need more relevant stories. We want to encourage aspiring and professional writers to contribute to the Story Shares collection and help us build a library of stories which reflect a diverse range of experiences and realities.

Being able to identify with a character or story is an immense comfort and a powerful resource. It means that suddenly a story, and therefore reading, can become pleasurable and meaningful and not just a chore. Further still, it demonstrates to students who have otherwise been overlooked that their story is worth telling, encouraging them to write and share their own stories.

Sadly, there is a widely acknowledged lack of diversity in the literature available for young adults and the publishing industry more generally. A study in 2012 showed that in a survey of 3600 books, just 5.1% were about African American characters, 1.9% were about Latinos and 3.2% were about Asian-Pacific American characters.

Our Grand Prize for Diversity Award is how we will continue to raise awareness of this need and inspire the creation of culturally relevant content for a demographic of readers that are vastly overlooked. We are looking for stories which include LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. We are also looking for stories written in Spanish.

It is important that we recognize that what many consider to be a ‘diverse’ experience or identity is normal for others. We want to see three-dimensional literary heroes and writers who speak to our wide range of readers, producing a range of culturally relevant stories. By ensuring that our literacy hub is full of stories which offer multiple ways of looking at the world, we can not only help readers discover a story or a character that they identify with, we can also helps readers explore differences in a positive way.

For more info on our annual contest visit: www.storysharescontest.org

Citations:

3,600 books the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed in 2012 - See more at: http://www.firstbook.org/first-book-story/media-center/press-room/275-first-book-announces-pioneering-new-initiative-to-create-more-diversity-in-childrens-publishing#sthash.5kUixR1T.dpuf

Louise Baigelman