Remembering Robie Harris

Created January 19, 2024 by Sarah Diamond

Sadly, the SCBWI has learned that author, prominent defender of the right to read, and our dear friend, Robie Harris, has died. Born in Buffalo, New York, Ms. Harris was 84.

A graduate of Wheaton College and Bank Street College of Education, she has written thirty books, some of which touch on emotional issues common in young children, and others that deal frankly with subjects ranging from puberty, sexuality, health, and well-being. Her most popular book, IT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health has sold more than 1,500,000 copies and has recently been updated in celebration of its 20th anniversary.

From its debut, IT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL has been subjected to considerable censorship. Years ago she told Kirkus Reviews that at first the censorship both surprised and hurt her. But then she remembered why she had written the book in the first place. And that’s because she knew that the book had provided kids and teens with the honest and accurate information they needed in order to stay healthy as they entered puberty and adolescence.

Robie has received a number of awards, but perhaps her most significant is also her most recent, the inaugural Mills Tanenbaum Award for Children’s Literacy, presented in 2020 at the Reach Out and Read of Greater New York Annual Benefit in Manhattan.

Do her books have an impact on her young readers and their parents? Well, it certainly appears that they do. As an example the Reach Out and Read of Greater New York Programs has donated Robie’s books to 180 of their pediatric clinics in underserved communities. The program reaches a quarter of a million children and their families throughout metropolitan New York every year. Those books don’t just change lives, they often save them.

A lifelong advocate for literacy, a champion of teachers, librarians and students battling censorship, and a dedicated author of books filled with honesty, critical information on health, and, yes, even humor, Robie Harris has left a legacy that will continue to entertain and educate young people and their families world-wide for many, many years to come. 

"Robie was a longtime and active member of the SCBWI, frequently speaking and teaching at conferences," said Lin Oliver, SCBWI co-founder. "She was a cherished friend, a defender of children's right to information, a funny and irreverent personality, and a compassionate author and educator. We will miss her, but the world is a better place thanks to her life and contributions."