CCBC Data Dive

In 2015 Nielsen released Increasingly Affluent, Educated and Diverse a report that focused on the increase buying power of African Americans earning >$60k/annually. The information on this group, which is growing at a rate faster than white counterparts would be seen as specifically relevant to businesses and industries hoping to increase profit margins. The report noted the increased diversity of Blacks in stating that 1 in every 11 were immigrants (They did not report data indicating how diverse this group is in terms of disabilities, religion or sexual orientation.) With a median average age of 31.4 yars and increased college enrollment rates it’s obvious that this group would have an increased proclivity for media consumption. (To me, media means sources of information.)

Bookstores are reported as the third highest basket ring for Blacks. “These households also exceed the basket ring of non-Hispanic Whites in department stores, toy stores, book stores, auto stores and dollar stores.”

Book Reading 2016 was a study indicating reading habits among adults. The only racial component of the report related that 69% of Blacks had read a book in any format in the past year. More women read than men and the percent of books read increased both with educational attainment and earned income.

Remember, Nielsen reported significantly growing numbers of Blacks in these categories.

While I can find data that indicates what format children and teens prefer to read and the increase in overall purchasing of teen books, I cannot find a socio-economic breakdown for children’s book sales. I believe the information is available behind a paywall and is probably in Nielsen 2016 Children’s Book Business Review.

There are lists out there of best selling children’s books in 2016, 2015 or of all times, but I classify them as unreliable sources of information until I know how this data is gathered. What is the source of the books sales? If a librarian orders a set of books from Baker and Taylor, are those counted toward book sales? Are all books stores and book jobbers counted, or is this list based upon an industry average? I mention these lists (in passing) because I’m not seen one list that mentions a book written by a person of color or a Native American. So, I ask how are these numbers obtained?

The best information I could get on multicultural books sales was a statement printed in Publishers Weekly.

Courtney Jones, v-p of multicultural growth and strategy at Nielsen, shared insights on the growth of multicultural consumers that puts very real data behind the cry for more diverse books. Jones showed that the largest sector of population growth in the U.S. is coming from the Hispanic communities, and she showed figures demonstrating a large growth in purchasing power among African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American communities. Perhaps most telling in the shift in demographics was the statistic Jones shared that today’s children under the age of nine are split demographically 50/50 between multicultural and white.

Jones also pointed to popular properties, in particular Doc McStuffins, which features an African-American protagonist, and is demonstrating resonance across all groups. Doc McStuffins is most popular among Asian-American children, but is highly popular among non-Hispanic whites, African-American, and Hispanic groups as well. Jones added, “If you create content that speaks to [specific] cultural segments,” the data shows that “it is resonating across all races and ethnicities.” Furthermore, Doc McStuffins, a female character, also has strong appeal for boys.


All this makes me wonder why the figures released today by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center indicate little to no growth in book by or about Native Americans or people of color and more specifically, it makes me question the decreasing number of books by African Americans and Latinx. And, why are only 1/3 of the books that feature African Americans written by them? The above data documents bountiful economics resources as well as strong book related spending habits, so what data are we not seeing?


Honestly, the data is no better with regards to #ownvoices when we look at Asian Americans or Native Americans. (What do you think the numbers would look like for LGBT+ or disabled people?) My interpretation of the data is continued colonization of children’s literature where marginalized people are not free to tell their own stories.

Maya Gonazalez and Janine Macbeth, I think you’re on the right track.






10 thoughts on “CCBC Data Dive

  1. Prof. Campbell, I fear you and many others are diving into the wrong data water.

    I had an exchange with the estimable Zetta Elliott about this in December 2016, and the following is adapted from that comments conversation in her post about African-American MG and YA. I suggested there that the CCBC data is of limited utility because it favors equality of OUTCOME. (Sorry for the shouting, there’s no way to italicize here). But unless we’re living in a hard leftist social and political system where equality is favored over freedom, what we really need to be shooting for is equality of OPPORTUNITY.

    Zetta suggested in her comments that 5-10 African-American writers get turned down in kidlit for every one that gets published, and that this turn down is so discouraging these writers stop trying to get published. Now, If 5-10 white writers get turned down in kidlit and have the same impulse to quit, and 5-10 Laotian-American, disabled, or Arab-American writers had the same turn-down rate, there would be perfect equality of opportunity among those groups. And if — it’s completely possible — somewhere between 7 and 12 white writers get turned down for every one that gets published, then the opportunity rate for African-Americans would actually higher than for whites. The same thing would be true if between 4 and 9 members of Native nations were turned down for every one whose book is accepted. Their opportunity rate would be higher than for any of the other groups mentioned. This is relevant because African-American and Native nations books have made the what looks like disheartening progress in raw numbers in the last fifteen years, especially compared to books about Latinx or Asian-American characters.

    There would be an ugly problem, though, if the opportunity rate for whites was between 4 and 9 turn-downs for every acceptance, while all the others were between 5 and 10. Or, if all non-white groups had opportunity rates of between 10 and 15. All else equal, whites would then be favored, and we would have a real problem on our hands. But I think you, I, and every intellectually honest reader of your blog knows the white writer turn down rate isn’t as low as between 4 and 9.

    The same principle applies to jobs in publishing, librarianship, agenting, education, book selling, reviewing, and all the other pieces that make up the “gate” we talk about when we refer to gatekeeping

    That’s why the CCBC information, however painstakingly tabulated and passionately collected, is less helpful than it appears to be. That’s why opportunity numbers are crucial, and why outcome is a largely false measure. Outcome as measured by the CCBC is a pretty reliable measure, which means if the same books are tabulated by different people with the same training, the results would be very similar. But it is not valid for the purposes for which it is being used. Data worth a deep dive needs to be both.


    1. Anonymous,
      I am neither a PhD nor a Professor, though I’ll take that as a compliment!

      I think there are a few problems with ignoring this data because it relates outcomes. Typically, in assessment we want measurable outcomes and this is just that and still, I can accept your point that this data relates to equality more than to equity. I don’t know how we can measure inequity except perhaps to keep collating the data. Lee & Low’s Baseline Survey would be good data to include, I think.

      I did look back at the blog post you mentioned on Dr. Elliott’s blog and I do have to agree with her that there is no way to measure the turn downs. I also think that when considering opportunity, there are greater barriers besides rejection from the publisher such as access whether it be to high quality education, to key players in the publishing industry or to insights on the publishing trade. We know these things exist across industries.

      The books measured by the CCBC all make it through the same gatekeepers.

      Here, we’re provided several years of consistent data that can show us significant shifts in the industry.


      1. Hello again “Professor” (and you merit that appellation because of your insight and influence),

        I think we are in agreement that the data speaks to equality and not to equity. Would you agree that opportunity equity is a more important measure than outcome equality? I’m there. Are you?

        I do think can get some turn-down data, but it sure won’t be as easy as coding published books. The writing departments of HBCUs can give us a sense of what their graduates are writing and submitting. SCBWI might survey its membership. Publishers and especially agents can be surveyed on this subject, so long as anonymity is guaranteed, and realizing that it is hard to tell identity things from submissions unless the author draws a circle around it. When there’s a will, there’s a way to start to get at this data.

        Thank you very much for this forum and for your willingness to engage. I wonder what other think on the equity vs. equality thing, in theory.


        1. Still, I’m not a professor. As an Assistant Librarian, I understand the years of hard work necessary to earn that title and that’s not me. While I will occasionally embrace the theoretic, I’m much more about the practical. So, I’m willing to let you have that work to chase down the lack of equity. That’s big work because there are so many points of inequity. You mention looking at HBCUs. Attending those university disenfranchises students from those who become corporate leaders in publishing. What about the acceptance rates to MFA programs? Will you include income inequity? The geographic location of the aspiring authors? And will you successfully correlate this to representation in chidren’s lit?

          I think we digress. What can we need to to as industry outsides to effect change in the representation of POC/NAs in children’s lit? I don’t believe equity makes a hills of beans of difference to corporate America.


          1. First, whether you’ve got a doctorate or not, you do crucial work on behalf of all children. If only there were more people like you, we’d have a much better world.

            I want to share one final thought. Your hypothesis for the current CCBC data is “is continued colonization of children’s literature where marginalized people are not free to tell their own stories.” Another hypothesis is that POC actually have a better opportunity chance of getting published than white folks, but there just aren’t enough raw numbers of POC writers submitting manuscripts that are publishable.

            The hypotheses are equally plausible. I hope CCBC decides to investigate them dispassionately.

            Again, thank you for your engagement!


  2. One big problem I see is the underwhelming market response to this year’s Caldecott winner books that are about POC. Look at RADIANT CHILD, which didn’t make the New York Times bestseller list, and currently mired at about sales rank 34,000 on Amazon. FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE is ranked at 12,725. Meanwhile, DU IZ TAK, LEAVE ME ALONE, and THEY ALL SAW A CAT are selling briskly. We can’t blame lack of attention, since these books won prizes and got plenty of press coverage. Why aren’t minority communities snapping up these books, considering all the data you mention about buying power? Publishers will notice!


    1. Hi Penelope,
      When you mention ‘minority communities’ are you referring to new minority communities, or old? In either case, why assume a certain portion of the population has the responsibility to purchase books by African American authors to up the numbers on Amazon? While Amazon can be an indicator of purchases, it’s not the sole source of sales statistics. If a book is good enough to win an award, it should be on everyone’s bookshelf.


      1. Hi Edi!

        A very brief response, since you asked. According to an article from The Atlantic in May 2014, Amazon is responsible for more than 40% of all books sold in America. There may be other good sources of book sales data, but it is hard to argue that Amazon is less an an excellent indicator. As for support by POC communities for books like FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE, I look at it this way: If a vegetarian restaurant opened in a big city, won critical awards, had much written about it, but vegetarians still didn’t flock there to eat and the restaurant was normally just half-full, that would deter others from investing in more vegetarian restaurants.


        1. Hi Penelope,

          I really don’t think considering Amazon sales alone is a going to be the best indicator of a book’s sales. They’re ranks are in the moment and quite fluid. An indicator yes, but I wouldn’t rely upon it as a sole indicator. And, I would put the onus for sales on those whites who consider books, movies, televisions shows and other media written by or feature Native Americans or POC as solely intended for those groups. It’s very narrow way of perceiving the worlds. Media serves as a window and as a mirror. It could very well be that 100% of the sales are by African Americans and that everyone who is a vegetarian within a certain radius of that restaurant does visit it, but non vegetarians won’t give it a try.

          I think the point you’re trying to make is that POC don’t buy these books, so why should anyone else, but that a false premise.


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