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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 author Alan Durant, former librarian Anne Thompson and independent bookseller Tamsin Rosewell. First we heard from Alan Durant

Alan Durant

It is obviously shameful that in an advanced, liberal and multi-cultural society such as ours there are still so few books representing people from ethnic backgrounds apart from white caucasian (I don’t like the homogenising and depersonalising of terms such as BAME, so I won’t be using it here or anywhere else). I’d like to see the results of any poll that showed the percentage of children’s book editors, authors and illustrators who are not white caucasian. I suspect that would be around 1% also. Yes, we could all do more in the children’s book world to make sure our books represent the multi-cultural society we live in (and I think publishers like Tiny Owl and Lantana lead the way here), but we need more authors and illustrators – and editors – across our many and diverse ethnicities actively involved in the creation of books for children. How do we get this? By making the books children read seem relevant and representative –  a world of which they want to be a part and in which they feel they belong. Which is where we came in…

Alan Durant is a children’s author and poet who lives in Brighton. Tiny Owl will be publishing his new book Quill Soup this year!

Next we heard from librarian Anne Thompson!

Anne Thompson

Librarians are key to children accessing books of all types. It is vital that in their professional capacity both school and public librarians ensure that children see diversity, including BAME characters, authors and illustrators, as a normal part of the book collections they use. In recent years steps have been taken to improve the situation. The independently chaired Diversity Review launched by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in 2017 has resulted in actions taken to ensure greater diversity and representation in the prestigious Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards for children and young people.  These actions have included: opening up the nominations process to external nominating bodies as well as librarians including BookTrust, CLPE, Commonword, IBBY, Inclusive Minds, National Literacy Trust and RNIB; creating a list of eligible books by diverse authors and illustrators and expanding the judging panel.

These first steps will, it is hoped, ensure that the titles selected for nominations and subsequent long and short lists will celebrate and raise awareness of diversity in children’s literature among librarians, teachers, parents and readers. These highly regarded awards gain exposure in mainstream media which will highlight the issue and the books themselves may encourage and nurture a wider range of authors and illustrators in the future. As a school librarian I have attended  training sessions on ensuring the school library caters for all its readers and received advice from professional bodies on the diverse titles available for children of all ages. It is at least a step in the right direction.

Anne Thompson is a librarian with 20 years experience and a book blogger.

And finally Tamsin Rosewell!

Tamsin is a bookseller at the fantastic independent bookshop Kenilworth Books 

  • 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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