The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education ( CLPE) and BookTrust announce new surveys to review representation in children’s literature

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) has announced a pioneering new study into ethnic representation in children’s literature. The Reflecting Realities initiative will evaluate the extent and quality of ethnic representation in children’s publishing and will be the first ever survey of its kind in the UK.

The study will be produced alongside and complemented by research from BookTrust, who will publish a Representation research project focusing on the number of children’s titles created by authors and illustrators of colour in the UK in recent years. Both surveys are funded by Arts Council England and aim to promote conversation and awareness around representation in children’s books. Findings for CLPE’s study, looking at books published in 2017, will be announced in July and followed by BookTrust’s report in September.

The CLPE survey will be led by a  steering committee of leading experts in publishing and education includ-  ing Farrah Serroukh from CLPE, Professor Karen Sands O’Connor (Professor of children’s literature at SUNY Buffalo State, New York), Darren Chetty (Teaching Fellow at UCL Institute of Education), Fen Cole (co-director of Letterbox Library), Nicky Parker (Publisher, Amnesty UK Publishing), Professor Vini Lander (Professor of Race and Teacher  Education, University of  Roehampton), Dr  Kehinde Andrews (Associate Professor of Sociology, Birmingham City University) and author, editor of The Good Immigrant, founder of The Good Journal and co-founder of The Good Agency Nikesh Shukla.

Commenting on the launch, Farrah Serroukh, directing the project for CLPE, said:

“Our Reflecting Realities project will enable us to develop the blueprint for an annual survey that will help inform and guide ongoing investment in  broadening representation in children’s literature. We must invest our energies into normalising and making mainstream the breadth and range of realities that exist within  our classrooms and society and ensure that this translates to the pages of our books. We hope this work, alongside the complementary Representation research project that BookTrust are undertaking will lead to a more nuanced conversation about the value and impact of reflecting realities.”

Chair of Trustees for CLPE, Steering Group Member and Head of Amnesty International UK’s publishing programme, Nicky Parker, said:

“CLPE has long been dedicated to championing diversity, representation and inclusion in children’s literature. This survey will be the first proper study of its kind in the UK and will provide an objective platform to inform discussion and influence sustainable and meaningful change. I’m extremely proud to be part of this much-needed work.”

Jill Coleman, Director of Children’s Books at BookTrust, said:

“Representation in children’s books is important for all children. A lack of diversity impacts on how young readers see themselves and the world around them, on their motivation to read, and on their aspirations to become the writers and illustrators of the future. We hope this research will give us an accurate picture of the present situation, help us to support and encourage a diverse range of  talent and, ultimately, to encourage more children to develop a lifelong love of reading.”

Sarah Crown, Director of Literature, Arts Council England, said:

“A number of recent reports – including the Arts Council’s own - have shone a spotlight on the publishing sector’s alarming lack of diversity, in terms of staffing, artistic talent and output. Of particular concern is the paucity of high quality books for children and young adults by and about people from all walks of life. This ground-breaking research by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education will provide much-needed evidence that may help shape the decisions made by those working in the publishing indus- try and the subsidised sector that supports it. Arts Council England is delighted to  be funding this timely  and important initiative through our Grants for the Arts programme.”

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About Reflecting Realities

Reflecting Realities is a pioneering programme to establish the first study into ethnic representation in UK children’s literature. Produced annually, the survey will assess the representation of BAME characters in children’s books published in the UK, with the aim to alter attitudes within publishing and cultural educa- tion. The survey will be based on a model from Wisconsin University, which has published data on US children’s books since 1985, and will be led by a steering committee of leading experts in publishing and education.

w. Reflecting Realities  t. #ReflectingRealities

About the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE)

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education is a charity working with all those involved in teaching literacy in primary schools. Our work raises the achievement of children by helping schools to teach literacy more effectively and showing teachers how quality children’s literature can be placed at the heart of all learning.

w.   t. @clpe1

About BookTrust project

BookTrust and University College London (UCL) are undertaking a research project to establish what percentage of children’s titles published in the UK in recent years were created by authors and illustrators of colour. The research project, completed in September 2018, will provide the baseline information about authorship and will look at trends over a period of years. BookTrust and  UCL will build on their research by interviewing authors and illustrators of children’s books to explore and understand their experiences and the barriers they face. The project aims to highlight how best to support and showcase authors and illustrators of colour, in order that children’s books can reflect our diverse society and get more children reading for pleasure.

About BookTrust

BookTrust is the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. We work to inspire a love of reading in children because we know that reading can transform  lives. Each year we reach 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support to help develop a love of reading. We are committed to starting children on their reading journey and supporting them throughout.

w.    t.  @Booktrust

About Arts Council England

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. We invest public money from government and the Na- tional Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

w.      t.  @ace_national