For the last 10 years, representation has been the word on everyone’s lips. For those from an ethnic minority background, seeing someone that looks like you in the content that you consume is extremely rare. Rarer still is seeing representation that contains no stereotypes or misconceptions. Admittedly, there has been movement on the matter with diverse programming and adverts becoming more prevalent in our day to day lives. However, one area that seems to be moving quite a bit slower than others is in children’s literature.
Since 2018, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) have released a yearly report that “identifies and evaluates representation within picture books, fiction and non-fiction for ages 3–11 and provides a benchmark to track and understand progress and a toolkit to support both producers and consumers of children’s literature to be more critically reflective in the move towards a more inclusive future” (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education).
While the figures have shown improvement over the years, last year’s report based on literature shows that, over the last three years, only seven percent of books published featured characters from an ethnic minority background. Additionally, the report revealed that these characters remain markedly underrepresented when compared in relation to the population of primary school pupils where 33.5% are from an ethnic minority background (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education). These figures are staggering and call for a mobilisation to combat this severe lack of representative literature for our young people.
Actively seek out books featuring persons of colour
Clearly, this is an obvious solution but nonetheless, it must be included. The data highlights these books are few and far between, however, they are there, and they do exist. If we wish to improve those unbelievably dire statistics, we must go that extra mile to seek out these books. Visit your local black-owned bookstore, search the black literature section at popular/mainstream bookstores etc. This is a crucial first step towards creating literature that reflects the faces of primary school children of today.
Here is a link to bookstores and other resources to help you get started:
Start a book club
In starting a book club, you are killing two birds with one stone. Turning children into voracious readers can only be a positive thing as it is shown to develop their imagination, teach them empathy, improve their concentration, and aid their academic performance across the board (CAM Everlands Primary School). By setting up a book club, you would be heling a group of children develop a love for reading, whilst introducing more books with POC characters to a larger audience.
While this may sound like a bit drastic but who better to enact the change you would like to see than yourself? You would have full creative control of the character and it can become a group task between you and your child, allowing you the ability to create a character that is entirely representative- themselves!
So, as November approaches and the release of the 2021 report approaches, we must remember that we must do more to change the faces present in our young people’s literature. One page at a time.
CAM Everlands Primary School. “Cam Everlands Primary School.” 10 Benefits of Reading, https://www.cameverlands.org.uk/10-benefits-of-reading/. Accessed 24 October 2021.
Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. “CLPE Reflecting Realities – Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature (November 2020).” CLPE, 11 November 2020, https://clpe.org.uk/research/clpe-reflecting-realities-survey-ethnic-representation-within-uk-childrens-literature. Accessed 24 October 2021.