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Authors urged to add diversity to children’s books

Authors urged to add diversity to children’s books
27th March 2019 Ian Streets

The recent World Book Day brought calls from various quarters for more to be done to increase the level of diversity in children’s literature.
ITV news reported that a study by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education found that only four per cent of children’s books published in the UK during 2017 featured black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) characters.
The Independent picked up on the call from several authors for books to feature more disabled characters.
ITV highlighted the view of Lynsey Pollard who, they said, became fed up by the lack of diversity while reading to her five-year-old.
She told ITV: “Having diversity in children’s books means that all children feel normal, they get to see their family in the pages of a children’s book and that’s just brilliant, because if you’ve got two mums, you want to feel like that’s a normal thing to have, you don’t always want to look at children’s books and feel different.”
Lynsey’s website – https://littleboxofbooks.co.uk – advises readers they can expect something different, with “characters incidental to the storyline that show the world in all its multicultural and diverse brilliance.”
Examples include girls not always being rescued, boys not always being pirates and children not being defined by disabilities, family situations or upbringing.
She explained to ITV how World Book Day itself can present specific challenges: “If there is a lack of representation in children’s books and they want to dress up as their own ethnicity and they’re not white, they’re going to really struggle to find characters that they can dress up as.
“We wanted to showcase a load of books that gave them the opportunity to find characters that they could look like – that they could dress up as – they can dress up as anyone they want, it’s just about giving children more choice.”
Rachel Shenton, who won an Oscar in 2018 for her film about the experiences of a deaf child, told the Independent: “When I wrote The Silent Child I created a film about an issue I’m incredibly passionate about and have experience of in my own life.
“I’ve learnt just how important it is for children to see themselves in the programmes and movies they watch and in the books they read. Never seeing themselves can make their experiences seem invisible.”
Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, added: “I’ve seen first-hand how powerful it is for a child to have their lives and their experiences reflected in what they read – to be able to say ‘There’s someone like me!’”

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