April 19, 2017 @alvinirby
I totally understand why children’s book publishers hire sensitivity readers. These cultural consultants review children’s books before they are published and offer their opinion about whether other people who share their same cultural or ethnic background might be offended by something written or depicted in the book. I am by no means opposed to the idea of having an extra set of eyes involved in the editing of a book.
As a published children’s book author and an aspiring novelist, I certainly value a thorough revision process, but no one should confuse this practice of hiring diverse people traditionally excluded from children’s publishing with publishers embracing diversity or inclusion. Publishers have a strong economic incentive to ensure that their new release doesn’t give people a reason to protest and turn the company into a negative hashtag trending on twitter.
Let’s be clear about what sensitivity readers are. They are a stop-gap measure or band-aid being applied to the systemic lack of diversity in children’s publishing. Sensitivity readers may help stop the industry’s bleeding in the short-term, but they are by no means a substitute for the surgery that is needed. If publishers want to remain relevant far into the future and intend to create a pipeline for the next generation of readers, the authors, illustrators, editors, and the other gatekeepers of the publishing industry must begin to look more like the sensitivity readers they hire.