A report today has revealed that children’s career ambitions are already limited by the age of seven. This is due to “ingrained stereotypes about social background, gender and race.”

The BBC’s piece on the report explains that the most common influences on children are the occupations of people in their family and “the jobs they see in the media.”.

Representation Matters

When children don’t see their selves in books it damages their aspirations. Earlier this year the CLPE revealed that only 4% of children’s books published in 2018 had a BAME main character.

Given that low percentage, and the number of those books that are sold, kids of BAME origins are not receiving enough good messages about things they could potentially do with their lives.

What messages does this send to children before they are seven?

Where are all the working mothers?

We look at children’s books every day. And we mostly get sent the good ones, that are smashing stereotypes, despite that, we have found only two picture books that explicitly show a working mother.

What message is that sending to children before they are seven?

Escapism set in reality

Books are escapism, they take children to fantastical lands and encourage their imagination to grow and soar outside of their everyday lives. Unfortunately most children’s books have a backdrop set in some kind of reality. And this happens to be overwhelmingly white and middle class.  

Child’s Play

Children’s publisher Child’s Play have been producing books that are representative of all kinds of families for almost fifty years. Through their children’s books, they gently show children that society is diverse. They have books about boys pretending to be nurses, enjoying art and caring for their friends. In some of their board books they have women working on the bins and driving trucks. Their books show people of all skin colours going about their normal everyday business consistently reminding readers that their options are open. They’re not hemmed them in and limited by damaging stereotypes.

It’s true, we can’t do a lot about home environments, we can’t do a lot about influences that children are subjected to from siblings, family members, extended family members and communities but we can do something about how messages from those situations land and are absorbed.

I am #InspiringTheFuture

That is why I’m delighted to hear about the Education and Employer’s charity campaign, I am #InspiringTheFuture , that will create 10 million face to face interactions between school pupils and business leaders, inspiring children to think about careers that may never have crossed their mind. These meetings are designed to inspire children to think about careers and futures they may never have considered, showing them they can be whatever they want to be.

This is urgent and necessary work. We’re costing kids their aspirations and damaging our economy by not prioritising their needs. We all need to work together. TV companies need to purge their children’s programming and adverts in between, to remove damaging stereotypes. Children’s publishers need to continue to diversify their output and we need to continue to provide opportunities for children of all ages to recognise their potential, no matter their race, background or family set up

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