When Dr. Laura Berk began writing her first textbook on child development, her work followed her home from the classroom at Illinois State University. There was research and writing to do, of course, and there were her own children to care for and learn from. At the time, the early-career professor had two young sons, then ages 8 and 11.

In May, SAGE Publishing’s US college division announced a new author/publisher partnership with Dr. Berk, distinguished professor emerita in the department of psychology at Illinois State University. SAGE now becomes the exclusive publisher of Berk’s bestselling titles. Together, the textbooks are considered an essential resource on human development from infancy to adolescence and into adulthood.

Over the same period that Dr. Berk has researched and written her body of work, not only publishing and related technology have changed dramatically but also society and culture.

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A Textbook Life, By An Author

“The US, I think, is undergoing unprecedented change in ethnic/cultural diversity. It’s vital that we authors represent that on virtually almost every page of our text. It’s also important that we represent it in illustrations for students,” she tells me.

“I think students are expecting to find discussions in the text they can relate to. They want to see themselves and their own cultural and ethnic backgrounds in the text. And they want to see images that look like themselves. They should expect that, and we have a responsibility to deliver on that,” Dr. Berk continues.

“With respect to LGBTQ+ subject, I included in my titles early on evidence on development of kids in lesbian and gay families, of development of gender minority children, on lesbian and gay parents and child-rearing, and on lesbian and gay adults. As the research appeared, I felt a strong responsibility to include it. More recently, we have an increasing body of research on transgender children, and I have included that in the last couple of editions of my texts,” she explains.

“So it’s a high priority for me, and I plan to pay serious attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion of all kinds. We can’t really understand development without doing that.”


Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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