I loved giving inset at Harry Roberts Nursery with Letterbox Library last week. There were great discussions about why diversity and inclusion are important in children’s books. As participants said, children need books that reflect their lives and experiences and help them understand themselves, and books that give them an insight into other people and their lives. Inclusive books are fabulous for personal and emotional development and for empathy. The photo shows some of the participants, and me, with a few of the wonderful books we explored during the day. (The nursery received a big boxful of inclusive books as part of the training package.) I’ve blogged about diversity and inclusion several times before. Lots of excellent articles have been published since the last time.
Do read author SF Said on whether children’s books can change the world.’Books can help transcend “us and them”. Fiction lets us experience another existence as if it was our own.’
Librarian and author Dawn Finch makes lots of excellent points in Why are we still talking about diversity and inclusion?.
Why do so many children’s books treat diversity as a black and white issue? is important and useful. ‘Writing more religious and ethnic minority characters in itself is not enough’, argues teen blogger Safah. ‘We need books embracing all aspects of these different cultures and lifestyles.’
In The many faces of diversity Candy Gourlay explores the issues she and other children’s authors face in attempting to be inclusive. ‘Are we doing it right? Are we offending anyone by not including/including a character who is ‘other’ in our stories? Who is allowed to write about other cultures/races/sexual orientations?’
It’s also well worth reading author Ravinder Randhawa on The challenge of writing British-Asian characters.
Have a look too at Julia Eccleshare’s suggestions for books that explore stereotypes and prejudice. (And don’t forget Letterbox Library for good books on all sorts of diversity issues.)
Teen author Non Pratt tells us no taboo should be off limits when writing for teenagers. ‘Violence, swearing, sex, drinking, mental illness… teen/YA lit has had it all for over 40 years’.
Gender representation in children’s books has been a huge issue for as many years as I’ve been involved with them, first as a librarian and then a trainer, and no doubt long before that too. Jennie Yabroff has written a valuable piece asking why there are still so few girls in children’s books, and looking at the implications.
Author Susie Day considers the lack of coverage of disability in children’s books. In the 80s, when she was growing up, ‘disability in books was a cautionary tale where you’d usually ‘recover’ if you were nice enough. Times have changed and children’s lit needs to catch up faster.’
Finally a picture montage of disability inclusive books that should be available in English.