Filling our kids’ bookshelves with diverse characters, storylines and family structures is something many parents would love to do. Being able to actually find a wide selection of high-quality inclusive books, though, is easier said than done.
Many books that feature diverse characters are published by foreign presses or smaller publishers that don’t have large marketing and distribution networks to get their books in front of families who want them. That’s why Alli Harper launched OurShelves, a children’s book subscription service that curates these books for its members. She talked about her decision to launch OurShelves recently on the One Bad Mother podcast:
Our two kids have two moms and we were surprised when we had our oldest almost 7 years ago … We started asking around for recommendations for high-quality, age-appropriate kids’ books that featured two-mom families like ours. We were really surprised at how hard these books were to find.
And the second observation we had was that there are just not enough high-quality diverse kids’ books, period. OurShelves stems from those two observations, so we launched OurShelves with a dual mission.
That dual mission, Harper tells One Bad Mother, is to connect the high-quality, diverse books that do exist with those who are seeking them and to advocate for more of these books to be published.
Part of what we’re trying to do is also prove this really large, significant audience for these books that we think is currently underestimated. So when people subscribe to OurShelves and buy diverse book boxes, they’re not only connecting these wonderful books to their kids and cultivating their inclusive values, they’re also being counted as part of the large market demand for these books, which is really important so that publishers kind of move away from perceiving increased risk when creating these books to actually perceiving all the opportunity that exists in creating these books.
The subscriptions can be customized by the child’s age, how many books you want to receive per box and how many boxes you want to receive (currently, all boxes are delivered quarterly). Subscriptions are geared toward kids ages 0-2, 2-5 and 5-8. The price per book ranges from $13.99 to $19.99, depending on how many books you choose per box and how many boxes you sign up for (the cost per book goes down the more you purchase).
Although you won’t know which specific titles you’ll get until the box arrives, there are few examples listed here and the company says, “any box with at least three books is guaranteed to include LGBTQ+, racially and ethnically diverse, and feminist characters and families, among many other currently under-represented identities.”