Modern First Library: Our Modern First Library Turns Two by Meghan Goel


We all know and love the classics. 

Books like Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Harold and the Purple Crayon are favorites for a reason.But there’s a whole canon of new books out there that also deserve a place on kids’ shelves.

These stories broaden kids’ horizons, provide fresh perspectives, and open windows to new experiences: all the things that great children’s books should do. That’s why we have the BookPeople Modern First Library Initiative. Pairing beloved picture books that will never go out of style along with other favorites that reflect the diverse, global society of the 21st century, we’ve set out to make building a thoughtful library for any child in your life easy.

This fall is the two year anniversary of the Modern First Library Initiative, and in its honor we’re bringing you a new blog series from some amazing voices. First up, to introduce the program and the series is Meghan Goel, Children’s Book Buyer and Programming Director at BookPeople.

Modern Library 3Our Modern First Library Turns Two

by Meghan Goel, Children’s Book Buyer and Programming Director at BookPeople

Two years ago, Austin author Chris Barton approached me with a simple yet intriguing idea: What if booksellers and authors could collaborate to help families build better, more diverse home libraries suited to our modern world? Connecting kids with stories celebrating the diverse cultures, ideas, and experiences of our 21st century world lies at the heart of my mission as a bookseller, so I immediately signed on. Together with a cohort of Austin’s children’s book creators, we got to work designing a series of gift sets pairing beloved classics with newer favorites to inspire vibrant, interesting book collections right from the start.

To me, building diverse libraries for our youngest readers is critical. The most personal reason is that I’m a parent too. My kids are in preschool, just the age this program is designed to target, and as I have read to them every day over the last four years, I have seen how much the words we’ve read matter. Those books have formed my kids’ first impressions of the world. They’ve shown them that dinosaurs once walked the earth, that caterpillars transform into butterflies, that families all look a little bit different, and that stories offer windows to the world. The books we choose to read help them figure out what questions to ask and what concepts are worth learning. Few things are more influential than that.

Modern Library 2To launch the program in 2014, we asked children’s book authors and illustrators from around the country to submit their own first library favorites as well as to reflect on the words “Modern First Library” and what they mean. The result was a series of incredibly passionate testimonials about the power of words and the importance of giving all voices a place at the center of the story. We were incredibly proud to host their heartfelt essays on this blog. So in honor of the program anniversary, we wanted to continue the conversation we started in 2014. We once again invited some of our friends in the children’s book world to contribute their thoughts on what a Modern First Library should represent and why it matters to them. Their posts will be going up through the end of September, so watch this blog, hear what they all have to say, and tell us why building diverse book collections matters to you. After all, we can’t do this alone. As authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, educators, and parents, we are partners in building a world of literature (and a world full stop) in which all voices can be celebrated and heard.

It seems Austin readers agree. The permanent Modern First Library display has become the cornerstone of BookPeople’s picture book room, and there are some really great books on that display. But we never intended to create a static canon. After all, there are a host of terrific books out there. In fact, we love so many, that we can’t resist taking the opportunity of this anniversary to grow the program even more!

As we launch a new series of blogs on this topic, I encourage you to re-read the words that got it all started. And if you’re looking for some great books to bring home, here’s a list of our new Modern First Library inductees.

2014 Modern First Library blog series:

Meghan Goel, Kids Book Buyer: Introducing BookPeople’s Modern First Library

Chris Barton: A Modern First Library List

Chris Barton: Loved, valued, unique? Yes. Center of the universe? No.

Cynthia Leitich-Smith: Books as mirrors

Cynthia Leitich-Smith: This book is for you

Modern Library 4Liz Garton Scanlon: Soul reflecting 101

Liz Garton Scanlon: Fear no difference

Liz Garton Scanlon: All the world is all of us

Don Tate: “When I began to read, I began to exist.”

Don Tate: Maybe it’s just plain fate

Varian Johnson: Diversity of our youngest readers

Varian Johnson: A better world

Grace Lin: The Wishes Many Readers Don’t Know They Have

Mike Jung: More Than a Start

LeUyen Pham: My Kids See Themselves in Every Book They Read

Phil Bildner: Firsts

Yuyi Morales: I Am My Hero and So Are You!

Elizabeth Bluemle: Curiosity, Open Minds, Lively Interest

Looking for more inspiration? Come on in and browse the full display. Give the gift of great books and help build the next generation of great readers! 

Our Modern First Library Turns Two by Meghan Goel
Modern First Library by Chris Barton
The Word Library by Ellen Oh
I Need a Diverse Book by Phoebe Yeh

9 thoughts on “Modern First Library: Our Modern First Library Turns Two by Meghan Goel

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