Only 4% of children’s books published in 2018 featured a black, Asian and minority ethnic person (BAME) as the main character, a new report, Reflecting Realities, by the CLPE has revealed. This figure is in stark contrast to diversity within society, where nearly 20% of the UK population are BAME.
While this figure does show a slight increase from last year’s 1%, it continues to highlight a lack of representation in children’s books.
Lynsey Pollard, Director of Little Box of Books, who specialises in providing inclusive and representative books, wants to see targets for diversity set within the publishing industry to speed up positive, authentic representation in children’s books.
“Lack of representation is bad for children. It damages their aspirations, makes them feel different, less good and less able to take centre stage. It also gives the over-represented children disproportionate ideas about their own importance.”
Lynsey is calling for robust action from the book industry that shows a clear commitment to increasing diversity within the books they commission.
“It’s only the second year for the figures, but if change is going to happen we need a whole industry strategy with set, realistic targets that will speed up the volume of books made that feature authentic representation, otherwise another generation of children will suffer the negative effects of not seeing themselves in the stories they read.”
She also wants publishers to commit to making the few titles with BAME characters that they do produce, more visible.
“I set up Little Box of Books to help parents find books that better reflect society for their children, because they were really hard to find. I want my children to understand the world and their place in it and stories can really help with that. Out of 11,011 books published in 2018, 440 had a BAME main character but how do parents even find them? You don’t want to have to dig through the wall of David Walliams’ titles available in every supermarket to find characters that are reflective of UK society.”
Little Box of Books is also asking families and schools to respond to today’s statistics by playing their part in diversifying their bookshelves.
“Check your bookshelves, can you find stories that smash gender and disability stereotypes? Are there books where people of colour are the main characters, can you see any stories that feature gay parents, single parents, blended families? If not, we can help with that. Make sure your child can see that everybody matters through the characters in their books.”
Danielle Sam Yorke a primary school teacher and a parent of two boys says,
“How many schools and families have bookshelves that reflect the population of the UK. You can talk about being ant-racist, you can teach equality and celebrate the accomplishments of people of all races and cultures but if you then default to reading stories where white boys are always the heroes, you’re saying the complete opposite and stifling some of that good stuff. Get in touch with Little Box of Books to bring some diversity to your shelves.”
Go to www.littleboxofbooks.co.uk to find out more about subscribing as a family or for information on buying books for your school.