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Launching our children’s book club

Inclusive and representative children's books

Hello and welcome. Today’s launch day and I’m so delighted you’ve found us. Thank you for taking your time to read about what we’re doing.

Where it all began

This amazing, exciting rollercoaster of an adventure started about 4 years ago when I went looking around Waterstones for books with a bit of diversity in them. I was looking particularly for single parent characters who would accurately reflect our family situation. More recently we’ve been replacing the word Dad with Stepdad in stories and changing character’s genders to help our 4-year-old see himself and his family in the books we’re reading.

It all got me thinking…It would be really helpful if books were just written like that. Do you know how much concentration it takes to change the gender of a character and stick to it all the way through?

In fairness, up to this point our efforts at getting books had been pretty lazy, consisting of getting presents, finding nice covers in the local bookshops and being grabbed by successful marketing campaigns. It turns out that there are some children’s books that accurately reflect the world. They don’t rely on stereotypes, familial, gender or otherwise, that are diverse and exciting, and there are some brilliant publishers large and small and a range of authors and illustrators from across the world who are committed to diversity and inclusivity. Their books show children with disabilities, families with same sex parents, single parents, blended families, protagonists of colour, sensitive boys and adventurous independent girls, who play together quite happily.

But there aren’t loads of them and more often than not, here at Little Box of Books, we find ourselves rejecting brilliant pacey, exciting books that have fallen into the trap of lazy, probably unconscious stereotyping. It’s frustrating but definitely fixable.

What we’re doing about it

So it’s now our job to find these representative and inclusive children’s books to get you and your child thinking about their place in the world. We want our books to help with their understanding about self and others so they grow in compassion and empathy while still enjoying the escapism and amazement that a good story can bring.

In growing our subscriber numbers we hope to contribute to the growing audience and demand for these books, so that the industry has to take notice and cater for what an ever-growing number of us are asking for. We’re passionate about diversity and representation in stories and know it has a huge part to play in the development of our young people. Being able to see yourself or people like you in the books you read is a crucial part of helping us celebrate and understand little differences between us, teaching us how to respect and love ourselves and those around us.

Reflecting Realities

Last week, research by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, (CLPE), funded by the Arts Council, released a report entitled ‘Reflecting Realities’. This was a new study into ethnic representation in children’s literature. The findings are disappointing but not surprising. They found that in 2017 the Department of Education reported that 32% of school age pupils in England were of minority ethnic origins. However, only 1% of children’s books had a BAME main character and only 4% of them featured any BAME characters at all.

We are hopeful that the release of this report will be a catalyst for the change that is needed, and that we start to see a change in the landscape of children’s books. The result of this would be more visible diversity, reflecting our society. In the meantime, we’ll keep choosing from the very small, select pool we have identified.

We’re here for representation right across the board and we want to see better visibility for diverse family set ups, characters with disabilities and those from different socio—economic backgrounds. We are determined to succeed in helping more children see themselves in the books they read. While there are only a few of these books, we’re going to track down the very best ones and get them into our boxes. In time we are convinced that ‘diverse’ children’s books will just be books. We’ll be out of a job but that’s ok.

So, here’s to stepdads making the dinner, two mums doing school drop offs together and a girl in a wheelchair being the hero of a rip-roaring pirate story.

Thank you for joining us. For subscriptions do visit us here:

Please do let us know what you think in the comments below. You can also find us on social media or on our feedback form.

Happy reading!

CLPE Report found here:

2 thoughts on “Launching our children’s book club

  1. I am really inspired by your ethos and just discovered your website. I am a senco at a state nursery school in Newham East London and we have a diverse cohort of 2,3 and 4 year olds attending our setting plus families accessing our children s Centre programme. We are working in partnership with our families to highlight the benefits of sharing stories with babies, toddlers and children. Do you have any connection with schools in Newham?would you be interested in having a conversation?

    1. Thank you so much for this. It will be great to discuss after the Summer holidays!

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