Lack of diversity in children’s books makes people feel excluded, says author

Tom Horton, PA

The lack of black characters in children’s books leads to people being made to feel excluded and unimportant, an author of a series of new stories has said.

Trish Cooke, who has written three new books in a series titled HairyTales, said more needs to be done to ensure children can access stories which feature a diverse range of characters.

“I think it is just a conversation that shouldn’t still need to be had,” she told the PA news agency.

She added: “It is not just for black children to see themselves in books. It is for everyone to see black children or black characters in books because if they are missing, that’s telling us a story, that’s saying something.

“That’s saying that they are not important enough to have stories about them.

“By excluding us, that’s for me saying we are not important and I think for children to start thinking that they are not important, that’s not good.”

Trish Cooke
Trish Cooke has written three new books in a series titled HairyTales (Trish Cooke/PA)

Children need to be able to see themselves represented in books, she said, adding: “They need their self-esteem to be raised, not trodden on.”

Her three books are titled Zel, Let Out Your Hair, The Puppet Who Wanted Hair and Jackson And The Hair Stalk.

All the stories feature black characters whose hair features in the plot of the story.

“People need to feel good about themselves, especially if they have been oppressed and made not to feel good about their features and their hair,” she said.

Cooke added that she did not see herself represented in books when she was growing up.

“As a child I didn’t realise there was something missing until I got older,” she said.

“You can’t articulate it as a child, you don’t know what it is, you just feel a sense of unbelonging, you feel a sense of being excluded.”

She added: “I was always surrounded by black culture, but at school it wasn’t there and in literature definitely it wasn’t there.”

The HairyTales series, which was commissioned by haircare brand Tangle Teezer and children’s book subscription service Woke Babies, is being distributed to 61 schools in London and is available for purchase in the UK and the US from Thursday.

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