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Tiny Owl’s campaign for more visibility for diverse books continues!

Children from BAME backgrounds aren’t seeing themselves reflected in the books they read. We launched our campaign Diversity Now! to try and change this.

So far our campaign has received a fantastic response. We’ve heard from amazing people including Elizabeth Laird, Jackie Morris, Savita Kalhan and Jion Sheibani.

This week we interviewed amazing author Lorna Gutierrez, author and illustrator Nadine Kaadan, and a book blogger who wanted to remain anonymous. First, let’s hear from Lorna…

Lorna Gutierrez holding her new book Dare, published by Tiny Owl

I recently remembered a meeting with a friend I had – we live across the country from each other but we were able to meet up a few years ago. She asked me, “Do you remember when we first met?”

I couldn’t remember the little details of that day: our first day of kindergarten.  However, I do remember playing and laughing together so I was a little surprised when she said she was afraid no one would talk to her because she had recently been in an accident and was wearing almost a full body cast. However, she said to me, “You came down and sat next to me and started talking like it didn’t matter.”

Funny thing is, I don’t remember a cast! I don’t remember it because I didn’t “see” it. The great thing about children is they see with their hearts, not their eyes. Which leads me to think that the issue with the lack of diversity in today’s children’s book market is not what will sell to the children, because the children don’t care about the color of the main character’s skin or if they’re disabled or not … they want to hear a story! And we ALL live stories! The problem is the decisions about the books we see in the stores have been put in the hands of adults  – adults who have come to believe that the world wants to see one “type” of child. We need to ask the children! They are the audience. Children want to read a story, and they want to see themselves represented in the story. So, from a marketing standpoint, wouldn’t it make more sense to represent the audience –including the 32% of children who are BAME and are rarely represented? I think so.

Lorna Gutierrez is a children’s book author who lives in Colorado, USA. We are delighted to have published her book Dare.

And here’s what our anonymous book blogger had to say…

I think this is partly an issue of personal responsibility. I am not sure many people recognise that the visibility of diverse and inclusive books is everyone’s responsibility, not just the responsibility of people who campaign in this area. We (buyers, bloggers, librarians, schools etc.) all need to broaden our horizons in what we promote so books with BAME characters become normalised.

From a personal perspective, I am always slightly worried about reviewing books with BAME characters and getting something wrong and causing offence. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way although it is a topic people are afraid of discussing in a public forum. I would never set out to cause offence, but I worry that maybe I will misinterpret something, use the wrong term, or inadvertently reinforce a racial stereotype. Maybe this is a lack of knowledge, confidence, or a bit of both.

More generally, I think chain bookshops are poor at supporting indie publishers. I don’t think this is specific to indie publishers who print diverse and inclusive books; whenever I visit my local Waterstones or Foyles I am always disappointed to see that the shelves are dominated by the ‘big’ publishing houses.

I would love to be part of the campaign to change the status quo – I think maybe I just need to stop worrying about it and just get on with it!

Last but not least, here’s Nadine Kaadan…

Nadine Kaadan is a children’s book author and illustrator from Syria. 

  • Read our introduction to the campaign
  • Find out what Elizabeth Laird and Jion Sheibani said about diversity!
  • Read responses from illustrator Jane Ray and early years teacher David Cahn!

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