Less than 2% of authors and illustrators being published in the UK are British people of colour, new BookTrust research has revealed.
The research studied the year 2017: fewer than 6% of published children’s authors and illustrators in that year were people of colour, and only 1.98% of them were British, according to the research, carried out as part of the BookTrust Represents project.
In addition, the number of books published by creators of colour declined between 2015 and 2017, after previously showing an increase between 2007 and 2015.
Jill Coleman, director of children’s books at BookTrust, said: “This significant piece of research shines a light on the fact that there is a desperate lack of authors and illustrators of colour within the children’s books industry. We know there is lots of positive work happening to help level the playing field but there is still a long way to go. Children need and deserve to see themselves in books, and to have access to a rich and diverse range of voices. If they do, it can be life-changing.”
To collate the data, BookTrust looked at all of the books at the British Library that were tagged with the phrase ‘children’s literature’ and published between 2007 and 2017.They then categorised the creators according to gender, ethnicity and nationality. They also interviewed creators about their experiences of working in publishing.
The research showed that over a 10-year-period (2007-2017) white children’s book creators had twice as many books published compared to those of colour (an average of four books person rather than two), and women of colour were more likely to be published than men of colour (65% to 35%).
BookTrust Represents is an ongoing three-year project and BookTrust will promote authors and illustrators of colour by arranging events in schools and bookshops, and offering training and mentoring. They want to increase the number of authors and illustrators of colour in the UK from less than 6% to 10% by 2022, said Coleman.
Several authors spoke out in favour of the campaign. Patrice Lawrence said: “When I give author talks in schools, I know that every young person in that hall has the potential to create original, engaging and thought-provoking stories. I also know that many young people do not believe there's a place for them to tell those stories. There are no names on the book spines like theirs, no author pictures that look like them. BookTrust Represents is a chance to change that by nurturing and showcasing new talent and inspiring the next generation of creators.”
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