Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The importance of inclusion and diversity in children’s and young people’s books

IMG_2294A big thank you to Anna McQuinn, creator of the wonderful Lulu books and Alanna Books, to Sufiya Ahmed, author of the fantastic Secrets of the Henna Girl, to James Dawson, who writes amazing books for teenagers, and to Barbara Ferramosca of CILIP School Libraries Group for inspiring me to return to the vital topic of inclusion and diversity in books for children and young people.

A couple of weeks ago Anna devised a fabulous set of inclusive children’s book laws. These are among my favourites:

  • All children would have a right to see themselves and their experiences reflected in the books they read, as well as having books which open up new worlds, real and imaginary.
  • Anyone saying they don’t need inclusive books because their [delete as appropriate] library/shop/school doesn’t have children ‘like that’, will be invited to remove any other book featuring something they don’t have locally – so into the skip go any books with bears, tigers, elephants, penguins, camels, tarantulas, dinosaurs, mammoths, volcanoes, monsters, gremlins, hobbits.
  • Every collection of books (whether in a bookshop, library, school or playgroup) would include as wide a range of characters, settings and plots as imaginably possible.
  • Books whose main character has a disability/is from a minority group/is gay or transgender will NOT be in a special section or on a special shelf with ‘other issue books’.

IMG_2281That got me started. Then at the weekend I attended a brilliant meet-the-author afternoon organised by the SLG, and talked to lots of inspiring librarians and writers. I was delighted to meet up again with Anna and with Sufiya (flanked here by Tamsyn Murray and Paul Crooks). It was great to discuss inclusion with both of them, and with Barbara, who raised the issue of diversity training with me.

Just this week James Dawson produced an invaluable list of inclusive YA titles.

For more book recommendations, check out these suggestions from authors.

Letterbox Library‘s knowledge of inclusive books is second to none. They’ve been supplying them to libraries, schools and individuals for over 30 years, and have very useful themed book lists. I love working with them on training.

Inclusive Minds campaigns for inclusion in children’s publishing. Alex Strick, one of its founders, has recently written about attitudes to learning disability and how children’s books can help.

School libarians will find the School Library Journal issue on diversity very useful.

Finally, here is SF Said, author of Varjak Paw, in ‘Books showed me it was all right to be different’: ‘Today’s young readers come from so many different backgrounds. And they’re hungry for stories about this new world that’s coming into being: the world in which we’re all connected, in which we all have a stake, and in which difference can be a source of richness, not something to be feared.’

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