"We wanted to stay true to the original series, but make it even more diverse," says author Ann M. Martin of Netflix's The Babysitter's Club

By Aili Nahas
July 16, 2020 02:23 PM
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It’s been 34 years since Ann M. Martin wrote the first book in the Baby Sitter’s Club series — one that would eventually go on to sell 180 million copies of 213 titles — and the author is beyond grateful for the lasting legacy.

“It’s incredible to be talking about the series in 2020,” Martin, 64 — who is a producer on The Babysitter’s Club, the hit new Netflix series inspired by her books — tells PEOPLE. “And I’m proud that the series reflects the different landscape, 34 years later. A lot has changed.”

Like the books, the Netflix series follows four young teens as they navigate family, friendships and often unpredictable babysitting charges.

  • For more about The Baby-Sitters Club, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Even when Martin wrote the series (the first book, Kristy’s Great Idea, was published in 1986), creating a diverse world on the pages was of paramount importance.

The Baby-Sitters Club
Scholastic

“I knew I wanted a cast of characters who were not cookie cutter,” she says. Claudia Kishi, one of the club’s founding members, was Japanese American. Stacey McGill had diabetes and several members of the club dealt with death, divorce and blended families. “It was about celebrating differences.”

When it came to discussions about the Netflix series, “diversity was really important,” says Martin. “We wanted kids to be able to see themselves reflected.”

The Baby-Sitters Club
Scholastic

Continues Martin: “I love that they made Dawn [Schafer’s] father gay and that they introduced a transgender babysitting charge. As someone who is gay, I know how much positive representation matters, especially to kids.”

In addition to championing the positive role models on the TV series her books inspired, Martin is also dedicated to the Lisa Libraries, the nonprofit organization she founded that provides books to underprivileged children. “And I’m still an avid reader,” she says. “I love it!”