#GiveNewark: An upstart publisher wants to collaborate with children to increase diversity in their books. And pay them to do it

“Did you know that 93% of kids books lack diversity, and that almost 50% of kids, maybe even your kids, can’t see themselves in books?”

Thus begins the Indiegogo campaign video for Positively Publishing, a children’s book publisher that will employ an innovative model to ensure books better reflect the children who read them, and will turn young co-creators into paid collaborators. The campaign will fund the printing of 2,000 copies of the first book, and additional startup costs enumerated on the campaign’s page. I spoke with Dawn McLaughlin, founder of Positively Publishing, about her company.


What is Positively Publishing?

We’re a multicultural book publisher, and we’re working to create books with kids.

The first book we’re working on right now — the illustrations are done, and it should be printed shortly. The books are going to feature the artwork of kids who aren’t typically represented in children’s literature.

 

How did you come up with the idea to collaborate with kids?

I believe kids have something valuable to create, and to contribute. I think they need to be seen and heard, and that’s important. I want kids to pick up a book and feel like they belong. They need to see themselves, their mothers, their fathers, and their neighbors.

I’ve tried to get published for about 20 years, and last summer I got so fed up with being told “no”. I had these stories written, and worked in Newark for many years, and saw for myself how kids got shortchanged by the lack of diversity in what they read.

What does the collaboration process with the kids look like?

Right now the stories are stories that I’ve created, and the children illustrate the stories.

Once we’ve completed the books using my stories, I want the kids to write the stories, and have professionals illustrate them. It’ll go back and forth.

 

Do you plan to work with the schools to find illustrators?

Yes. Through a pro bono partnership, I got help with the royalty contract through which the kids will get paid. We’re just finishing that up now. Once the contracts are complete, I can go into schools and other places and say exactly what we’re offering the kids.

 

Have you seen another children’s book publisher do what you’re doing in terms of the royalty model for student collaborators?

I’ve never seen this model before, but I’ve also never seen a publishing company that works with kids to create books. I definitely think we’re doing something new.

I’ve had the door closed in my face so many times and have been told “no” so much, so an important part of this business is helping kids see themselves in the books, and be able to make money from their own work. I thought wow, if they can get royalties, it can be an investment in their future. If an adult illustrator gets paid to do the job, why not the kids?

I worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I’ve also taught yoga in a lot of the schools in Newark through Lotus Yoga. From working with kids in Newark over the years, I’m amazed at these kids and what they accomplished in the situations they were in, how much compassion I saw them have for each other. I wish other people could see that — the potential that’s there. I think this will be one way to showcase that.


 Positively Publishing’s Indiegogo campaign ends December 9. The company can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/positivelypublishingkids, and on Twitter @PosPublishing. Find more Newark-based crowdfunding campaigns at brickcitylive.com/givenewark.

Perks for contributors:

  • $5: Help support us and help close the diversity gap in children’s literature
  • $25: Receive signed copy of the book/free shipping USA
  • $50: Receive two signed copies of the book/free shipping USA, social media acknowledgement on Facebook and Twitter
  • $100: Receive two signed copies of the book, social media acknowledgement and your name in the acknowledgement section of the book

 

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