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Working together for inclusivity in kids’ books

Little Box of Books was built on the premise that inclusivity in children’s books is absolutely crucial for all children. A diverse bookshelf teaches over represented kids that everybody is worthy of being the main character. It also teaches those underrepresented that stories should be about them and their lives. 

This year has seen a rise in people caring about diversity in children’s books. So we’ve done a bit of a round up of everything that is happening in diverse book land. 

Decade of Diversity

2021 saw Inclusion Labs launch their bookshelf transforming initiative as part of their Decade of Diversity. As a member of the steering committee and a founding member, Little Box of Books has pledged to support their work in getting 25% of books on school shelves to reflect the diversity of our population. Together with almost 30 other organisations, we are expecting school bookshelves to be transformed by 2030.

Marcus Rashford Book Club

Britain’s beloved social campaigner and footballer, Marcus Rashford, turned his attention to children’s books in 2021. He has been campaigning effectively and heartfeltly for the end of hunger in the UK. His achievements include:

  • £170m Covid winter grant scheme to feed the most vulnerable
  • £220m to provide extra food and activities for children in school holidays
  • An extra £16m to food distribution charities and an increase in value of Healthy Start vouchers.

Marcus’s family did not have enough money to budget for books. It was only as an older teenager that he had the chance to read for pleasure. Reading for pleasure has been shown to be good for academic attainment as well as mental well-being.

Therefore, in collaboration with Macmillan Children’s Books, Marcus has created the Marcus Rashford Book Club. Curated by Marcus, the books in the club will be ones that hope to inspire, empower, and provide escapism for children. For example, October saw the gifting of 50,000 copies of the Book Club’s first book, Silas and the Marvellous Misfits by Tom Percival.

Through media work Marcus has collaborated with partners like KPMG and Burberry to highlight the fact that 1 in 11 children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not have a book of their own at home.

Follow his progress and take action to  change this figure by donating a subscription box to a child through Little Box of Books.

Reports

Reflecting Realities

Every year since 2018, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education has written a report discussing ethnic representation in chidlren’s books. We wrote a summary of the 2021 report.

  • there has been an increase in characters of black, asian and minority ethnic origins: up from 10% in 2019 to 15% in 2020.

After selling 22,000 books in 2021 we know that people really care about inclusivity in children’s literature. It is crucial that we keep a tabs on representation and don’t celebrate good news without recognising that we still have a way to go. Still, we welcome the CLPE drawing attention to this issue.

The Future of Primary School Libraries

Produced by a partnership between Penguin Random House UK and the National Literacy Trust, the Future of Primary School Libraries report highlighted some alarming statistics.

  • There is no government requirement for schools to have a library.
  • 1 in 8 primary schools do not have a library, a number that increases to 1 in 4 in the most disadvantaged areas.
  • Covid-19 has made access to reading even more difficult for the most disadvantaged children.

By no stretch at all is this report the bringer of good news. Yet, the creation of the report itself promises a better future.

Why?

Reports like these identify the problems and give us a chance to come up with effective solutions.

As someone who grew up with a fully stocked bookshelf, reports like these make me realise how much I took my access to reading – and all the opportunities that came with that – for granted.

Reports like these will be the motivators of change.

In addition, the report also stressed the need for diverse books. Children should be able to see themselves (and their peers) in the books they read.

We are so grateful that the impact of inclusivity in literature has been recognised as a component for social change.

What Can I Do?

Help A School!

To this end, we offer big box bundles of books for schools:

What Has Little Box of Books Done?

One of the things we all can do is go on about these statistics until we’re all blue in the face and the numbers change. That’s why we’ve spread awareness on Improving Primary School Literacy Levels and the Impact of the Pandemic on Literacy Levels.

We have also worked hard to create partnerships with businesses who want to see change, through our business memberships.

Businesses committed to primary school literacy will play a huge role in transforming the economy in years to come.

Jersey…

This year we worked with a foundation to deliver books to every single  primary school in Jersey. As a result, every child in Jersey is going to have access to books that excel at showcasing inclusivity.

What does inclusivity mean? Books that explore different family set-ups, disability, LGBTQIA+ lives, the different races that make up the UK, and offer positive, alternative insights into gender.

In conclusion, these books will do wonders for the self-esteem and social outlook of the children in Jersey.

 

Other Positive Initiatives:

Lit in Colour

Penguin has joined forces with the Runnymede Trust to explore how inclusivity can be increased in school literature. Subsequently, their report has brought out some discerning figures:

  • At most 7% of students in England study a book by a woman at GCSE
  • 82% of youth survey respondents did not recall ever studying a text by a Black, Asian or minority ethnic author
  • 1% of students study a book by a woman of colour at GCSE

Yes: Little Box of Books focuses on diverse kids’ books. And yes, these figures relate to post-primary education. Still, we believe it is vital to have an inclusive bookshelf all the way up to a ripe old age. First and foremost, we’re offering the starting blocks – but as an adult, look at your own reading history and see if it is as diverse as it could be. The same principles of inclusivity resulting in empowerment and greater understanding of the lives of other people does not change as we age.

The Celebration of Diverse Kids’ Books:

A Kind of Spark

Along with a host of other nominations and recognitions, Elle McNicoll won the Blue Peter Book Award and the Overall Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for her debut, A Kind of Spark. This is fantastic news. A Kind of Spark features a neurodiverse character. Elle is an advocate for increasing the representation of neurodiversity in publishing. This demonstrates that book-giants as big as Waterstones are seeing that inclusivity in children’s books is the way forward.

Knights Of

With the hashtag, #BooksMadeBetter, Knights Of is a publishing house actively looking for diverse books. They want diverse books to be front and centre, acknowledged as great as the classics are. This is a thrilling new look into publishing with inclusivity at its heart.

World Book Day 2022

We’re already anticipating World Book Day 2022 as award-winning author Rashmi Sirdeshpande is its official author! We’re great fans of Rashmi, especially her book Never Show A T-Rex A Book (a book guaranteed to get children excited about reading). It is brilliant to have a British Asian author carrying the torch for children’s books in 2022.

 

Little Box of Books champions inclusivity in children’s books. We are hopeful for an inclusive brighter-looking future. This is because we are seeing an increase in interest in diverse kids books.  With time, we’re sure bookshelves across the country with become more diverse, from bookshelves belonging to the littlest people to the most ancient.

As always, if you care about our cause: diverse kids books, subscribe for more. 

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