Independent booksellers called for more diversity in children’s books at an Inclusive Minds event, held in association with the Publishers Association, yesterday (15th June), because their customers are asking for a greater range of ethnic diversity and family types in titles.
Steven Pryse, director at Pickled Pepper Books in Crouch End, north London, said he is asked “a lot” for diverse books. “People want a range of ethnic diversity in their children’s books, more strong female role models, same sex parents, foster parents. Books about children with Autism and Asperger are common requests and we’re often asked for books about being comfortable in your own skin.”
If children can’t get hold of diverse books they may stop reading altogether, he warned. “I asked my Anglo/Indian kids if they are reflected in books and they said no, and that is so sad. If an audience is excluded from books they will walk away.”
Fen Coles, director of Letterbox Library, a supplier of multicultural, gender equality and special issue books for children, said access is key because readers aren’t finding the diverse and inclusive books that are already published. Letterbox Library is therefore developing new business models to promote diverse titles, including developing a reading scheme which is made up of diverse titles, for a nursery chain, she said.
“Letterbox Library has its core market, those people who are actively seeking diverse books, but we’re actively educating people about how diverse books are mainstream,” she explained. “We all need to work harder on the mainstreaming of diversity.”
Pryse agreed that diverse and inclusive titles should not be kept apart from other books.
“We integrate diverse books into our displays but make sure staff have the knowledge to find them,” he said. “We also highlight diversity and inclusion through author visits and at our birthday party events. We sell to schools and want to reflect the whole school community.”
Pryse and Coles were both speaking at charity Inclusive Minds’ second ‘A Place at the Table’ event to promote diversity in children’s books. The Inclusive Minds collective also runs an ambassador scheme - a group of young “ambassadors” who advise publishers on diversity on books.