Children’s books ‘do not reflect diversity in the population at large’

Characters in children’s books do not reflect diversity in the population at large, new research suggests.

Reading charity BookTrust and the Centre for Literacy In Primary Education said their study found that characters from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background are “significantly underrepresented” when compared to the primary school population.

The number of books that feature characters from BAME communities was 10% in 2019, rising from 7% in 2018 and and 4% in 2017, according to their research.

The number of books containing characters from a BAME background.

The number of authors and illustrators of colour has also risen to more than 8% in 2019, an increase of 3% since 2017.

The research assessed books published in the UK which were aimed at children between the ages of three and 11.

Jill Coleman, director of children’s books at BookTrust, said: “Books play an important role in shaping children’s lives: these stories and characters will affect how they see themselves and the world around them, their motivation to read, and their aspirations to become authors and illustrators of the future.

“We are pleased to see that there has been slow and steady progress in the representation of authors and illustrators of colour since 2017: but we are ambitious to achieve more.

“We have now revised our targets and want to challenge ourselves and the publishing industry to increase the number of creators of colour in the UK to 13% by 2022.”

Hay Festival 2015 – Hay-On-Wye
(Ryan Phillips/PA)

Sarah Crown, director of literature at Arts Council England, said: “The CLPE and BookTrust’s respective research into the diversity of characters in children’s books, and the representation of writers and illustrators of colour across the children’s literature sector, has been crucial in helping to address historic imbalances and lack of opportunities.

“While it’s encouraging to see consistent improvement over the past three years, there is significantly more work to be done, to ensure all children can see themselves in the books they read and that the children’s publishing industry reflects the diversity of 21st century Britain.”

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