Tag archives: diversity

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Recent research and articles about children’s reading

book boat - St Andrews CE Primary Kettering

Many thanks to St Andrews CE Primary Kettering for permission to use this photo of their lovely book boats. Such a great idea, and perfect to illustrate my latest round-up of children’s reading news and articles.

Dawn Finch has written a valuable piece on the meaning and importance of reading for pleasure and ways to nurture it in libraries and schools.

Teacher Heather Wright suggest five ways to instil a love of reading in primary schools.

In another article she posits that reading for pleasure should be at the heart of the curriculum, and that quality books are a must, not a luxury.

‘Reading Corners: Effective?’ explores the value of reading corners in the context of creating a culture of reading.

A new study finds that a home environment that supports language development in early childhood predicts children’s readiness to learn in pre-school, which in turn predicts academic skills at 10-11.

Research suggests that language development in infancy is influenced differently by well-educated mothers and fathers, even though they read to their young toddlers in broadly similar ways.

‘Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers’, an article from the USA, suggests that much depends on how parents present the activity of reading to their children.

Recent research shows that targeted reading interventions in small groups can help to close the disadvantage gap for primary pupils, while whole-class approaches had little impact.

‘Children’s Reading With Digital Books: Past Moving Quickly to the Future’ is a useful survey of research on the topic, with suggestions for good practice.

An Australian article explores ways to get the most out of silent reading in schools.

The latest ‘Reflecting Realities’ survey into ethnic representation in UK children’s literature has been released, and it paints a depressing picture.

Jennifer Holder of Liverpool Learning Partnership has put together a useful padlet to support educators in exploring issues of diversity and inclusion in children’s and YA books.

Mat Tobin has produced some great tips on building a diverse and multicultural bookshelf and on becoming a ‘culturally responsive teacher’.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Inspired by India

Inspired by India 2Lantana Publishing held an illuminating and thought-provoking event at the Nehru Centre in London last week, inspired by two of their recent picture books: You’re Safe With Me, written by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry and Nimesh the Adventurer, written by Ranjit Singh, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini.

The authors and illustrators each told us about factors that influenced them. Chitra’s love of story-telling dates back to her early childhood in India. She remembers hearing stories from a very young age. Enid Blyton, particularly The Magic Faraway Tree, inspired all the stories she told her friends and relations.

Poonam, also born in India, was always fascinated by Indian folk art, with traditional textiles a particular inspiration. Aboriginal art has been another major influence on her style of illustration, along with the art of William Morris.

Born and raised in Southall with parents from India, Ranjit said his real education came from the local library, his haven when truanting. Japanese and Bengali film directors, Shakespeare and Sanskrit epics taught him how to tell stories.

Mehrdokht’s interest in books goes back to her childhood in Iran. Her mother taught literature. She fell in love with illustration when an art teacher asked the children to illustrate a children’s story. She chose one of Andersen’s tales.

Both You’re Safe With Me and Nimesh the Adventurer have been extremely well received within the children’s book world, and more importantly by children themselves, both in the UK and internationally. We heard that huge numbers of parents in India want books in English that feature children with lives like theirs.

Alice Curry of Lantana asked the panel their views about ‘the diversity label’ and whether they felt pressure to reflect their backgrounds in their work. All had experienced such pressure, and all agreed that the label is limiting and unhelpful (although Ranjit pointed out its marketing value). Chitra told us she gets more rejections for books without Indian characters, and that publishers frequently request Indian folk tales. Poonam and Mehrdokht were united: ‘We are illustrators. We should not be defined by our ethnicity or religion.’ Alice said Lantana never imposes limits on their authors and illustrators. How refreshing to hear that Chitra and Poonam’s next picture book for them is set in the Arctic.

This piece was written for Armadillo Magazine.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Diversity and inclusion in children’s literature – with some great quotes on its importance

inclusive booksIt’s the UKLA international conference this weekend. The (wonderful and important) topic is literacy, equality and diversity. I’m giving a workshop on using inclusive books with 3-7 year-olds, and I’ve been packing up lots of great books. If space and weight weren’t at a premium, I would be taking many more.

I totally agree with Alexandra Strick of Inclusive Minds: ‘A good inclusive book is never issue-led, but is characterised by a great story; fully rounded characters; incidental, natural representation of issues; authenticity.’

Malorie Blackman says; ‘First and foremost, our children need and deserve great, entertaining stories. My wish is for a more diverse pool of writers, illustrators and poets catering to our children’s needs. Our children require a more varied selection of protagonists having amazing adventures.’

I love these quotes too about the importance of diversity in children’s literature:

‘All children 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. This is not about political correctness, but about the need for books that reflect the reality of children’s lives.’ Anna McQuinn

‘When children see their lives reflected in the books they read, they feel they and their lives are not invisible.’ Malorie Blackman again

‘Children need to feel they belong.’ Beverley Naidoo

‘Let’s make our bookshelves reflect the diversity of our streets.’ Phil Earle

‘Books give a child a lever with which to prise open the world.’ Amanda Craig

‘A book is a place where children can try on all the lives they haven’t got.’ Margaret Meek

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Inclusion and diversity in children’s books and why they matter- recent articles

Harry Roberts NurseryI 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.

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.’