Inclusivity in Books: The Need for More Diverse Books in UK Libraries
Did you know that despite having a diverse population, a report published by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education says that only 7% of the children’s books published between 2017 and 2019 have BAME characters? It’s disappointing to know there’s a significantly low number of diverse children’s books available to children with BAME backgrounds in the UK.
Many studies have already pointed out the importance of having diverse books, especially in libraries of primary schools and preschools where children have the most access to published books.
“All children have the right to be included in books, see faces that they can relate to the covers, and meet characters with similar families, lives, and experiences. Equally important is for children to see the difference in books, to learn about those who are different from themselves, and to realise that they do, in fact, have many similarities.” (Cox, as cited by Flood, 2014)
Another study by the University of Manchester found that 65% of those that they surveyed for their research have less than 15% of diverse books available for their students in their libraries. Many call for publishers to write and publish more diverse books and make them available to children with diverse backgrounds. Illustrations of the characters in these books should also reflect different ethnic backgrounds to represent these children. The importance of making diverse books available and accessible to children is something that has been overlooked by primary schools and preschools.
Representation of children with BAME background is very important, and it has a lasting impact on their lives, one that lasts even after they leave the school. In fact, in 2014 Jaime Campbell Naidoo PhD, a professor, librarian, and author, made a significant statement that emphasized the importance of children being represented in the books that they read:
“When children never see their culture represented, in materials on the library shelves, they receive a resounding a message that the librarian does not think their culture is important”
Inclusivity in Books: What You Can Do As A Parent
Although schools and publishers are called to address the need for more diverse books in libraries and in the shelves of bookstores, the change will still have to start at home. Parents are urged to buy books with diverse characters illustrated in the pictures of the books for children. Moreover, it’s also highly encouraged that parents read the books with their children so they can be able to discuss matters concerning the diversity of people in their young minds. This is an important step towards creating a generation of children who are loving and accepting of every culture, race, and ethnic background.
When children start school, they meet other children that are phenotypically different from them. In their curious minds, they begin to ask questions about differences: why they have different skin colour, different hair textures, different eyes and nose structures- this is the chance for educators and parents to properly discuss differences among people in a way that the young children are able to understand and appreciate.
Children’s books that are illustrated with diverse characters play an important role in helping the children understand racial differences. These books are not easy to find on the bookshelves, so getting a personalised book instead is your better option. In a personalised book, you can create the character to resemble your child, and it even has over 400 character variations to ensure the child is well-represented in the books that they are reading!
In today’s time, inclusivity is an issue that not only adults have to deal with. Children, as young as they are, would begin to question why their race is not represented in the books that they are reading. Be the progressive parent that this world needs, choose books for your children that make a lasting impact on their lives, and choose to read diverse children’s books with them!
“When we give the children the language and the framework they will not see differences as a threat, they will honour and respect differences” (Dr Lucretia Berry)