New research has found that 11.7% of UK published children’s book creators in 2021 were people of colour, compared to 5.6% in 2017.
However, despite the vast improvement, “the body of UK children’s literature in general remains far from representative,” said Diana Gerald, chief executive of BookTrust, in introducing the report.
The report Representation of people of color among UK children’s book creators was written by Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold of the University of Glasgow and commissioned by BookTrust. She found that while 11.7% overall were people of colour, only 4.5% of children’s book creators were British people of colour. However, there were 74 first-time British creators of color in 2021, up from just 12 in 2017.
In addition to statistical research, the report also interviewed 20 writers and illustrators about their experiences in the publishing industry, including Dapo Adeola, Maisie Chan, Serena Patel, Dean Atta, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, and Onyinye Iwu. Some said they had stronger relationships with publishers and saw publishers investing for the long term in the careers of creators of color.
However, creators also felt “unable or unwilling to speak openly about cases of racism and discrimination in the publishing industry”, expressing concern that “some publishers are superficially engaging with issues of exclusion and underrepresentation”. Some authors felt that some publishers were rushing the publication of books by creators of color simply to capitalize on the popularity and demand for “diverse” books.
“We’re getting a lot of what I call cookie-cutter books,” Adeola said. “Filler books rushing out, just to fill shelf space and tick boxes” so publishers can say “we have this book.” […] about diversity.”
Dr Ramdarshan Bold said it was “great that there is tentative growth in the number of children’s color creators published in the UK.”
But, he added, “beyond the numbers, it’s clear there’s still a lot of work to be done to make children’s publishing more equitable.”
“Creators of color interviewed for this report provided very honest accounts, both positive and negative, of their experiences publishing for children, describing some key barriers and enablers they faced,” she continued. “This ranged from everyday microaggressions to active allies in posting to the joyous impact of school visits. I hope that professionals in the book industry, and those involved with children’s books, will really reflect on these experiences and the report in general, to ensure that diversity, equality and inclusion are sustainable and integrated parts of the world of children’s books”.
A second BookTrust report was also released on Wednesday, about the experiences of elementary school teachers and students welcoming makers of color into the classroom.
BookTrust Represent Support for Schools: Assessment Report, 2022 found that “representation in children’s books and their creators has a critical impact on children’s broader learning experiences and development in the classroom and beyond” . She also found that visits from creators of color inspired many students “to write their own stories, with the authors they met serving as positive role models.”
Gerald said “there are now more opportunities for creators of color to publish children’s books in the UK, which means more children can read their brilliant stories.”
“However, creators of color still experience barriers,” he continued. “Overall, when you take into account the volume of previously published books that still inspire children and live on shelves today, the body of UK children’s literature remains far from representative.
“Improving representation in the books children read continues to be at the forefront of our work and we are committed to working in partnership with children, families, creators, publishers, schools, libraries and more until we get there. ”.