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Increase in minority representation in children’s books, survey suggests

The research assessed books aimed at children aged between the ages of three and 11.

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The survey also serves as a resource to aid publishers and educators in the move towards more inclusive literature (PA)

The survey also serves as a resource to aid publishers and educators in the move towards more inclusive literature (PA)

The survey also serves as a resource to aid publishers and educators in the move towards more inclusive literature (PA)

Minority ethnic representation in children’s books has increased for a fourth consecutive year, a survey suggests.

The annual survey by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) found that 15% of children’s books published in 2020 feature a minority ethnic character, up from 10% in 2019 and 4% in the inaugural report in 2017.

The centre welcomed this increase but noted that “work is still needed” and reflected upon the need for change across the whole publishing industry to continue to improve representation in children’s literature.

The Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature, which is funded by Arts Council England, also reports that 8% of the books published in 2020 featured an ethnic minority main character, up from 1% in 2017.

The survey shows us that work is still needed and this report highlights those areas and makes recommendations for future and further developmentLouise Johns-Shepherd, CLPE

The study identifies and evaluates representation within fiction, non-fiction and picture books aimed at children between the ages of three and 11.

The survey also serves as a resource to aid publishers and educators in the move towards more inclusive literature.

CLPE chief executive Louise Johns-Shepherd said: “Every year we say this work is not just about the numbers, and we say it again this year.

“We can see that across the industry there are real and concerted efforts to change the quality of pictures, descriptions and stories of people from racialised minorities.

“We welcome these changes but we are not yet at the point where children of colour have the same experience of literature as their white peers.

“The survey shows us that work is still needed and this report highlights those areas and makes recommendations for future and further development.”

Ms Johns-Shepherd also discussed the need for change across the publishing industry, adding: “We know that this survey sits within a wider societal context, we don’t presume to think that we can do this alone and we don’t think that we would achieve anything if we did.

“As well as looking at representation of characters, we need to look at who gets to write and illustrate the books; where the opportunities in the publishing industry are; who chooses what gets published, marketed, publicised, stocked and sold – all of these things go towards making a change to what actually gets into bookshops, libraries, classrooms and homes.

“This report celebrates the work of many organisations who are doing exceptional work to make sure that what we all do individually becomes greater than the sum of its parts – we hope that it is a useful reference point for everyone interested in this work who wants to find out more about real, deep and lasting change.”

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The CLPE has also announced a new research project, with support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, where they will go into 10 schools and support the reading journeys of around 300 students across a three-year period.

The project will aim to test what happens when children have the opportunity to engage with representative literature and will track the impact on their reading and writing.

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