Children's publishers welcome Stonewall call for pre-school diversity

Children's publishers welcome Stonewall call for pre-school diversity

Children’s publishers have welcomed Stonewall’s calls for more diversity in pre-school books as part of the charity’s plans to tackle homophobia in schools.
 
Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt told the Independent she wants to commission books “celebrating difference in all its forms for under-fives” .
 
She said: “We need to encourage [under-fives] to think about different families. Loads of kids these days have two mums or two dads – or at least gay uncles and aunts… I know from all my godchildren that the quality of children’s books depicting difference is dire.”
 
Neil Burden, publisher at Child’s Play, said he endorses Hunts comments and is “aiming to reflect our diverse society and challenge stereotypes in everything that we do”. He added: “We will be continuing to represent same sex parents and gay characters as part of the everyday landscape in our future programme.”

Sue Buswell, deputy publisher for picture books at Random House Children's, also said her company is "wholly supportive" of books that celebrate differences, citing Families, Families, Families by Suzanne and Max Lang, a book about all types of families, including same sex parent families, that it will publish in 20150.
 
Nosy Crow m.d. Kate Wilson also welcomed the discussion. She pointed out that only five of the 76 board and picture books published by Nosy Crow so far show a traditional nuclear family, and that the issue is one she is firmly aware of. “I think that depicting families where the parents aren’t straight is something that we’d think about more as a result of this Stonewall comment: sometimes it’s helpful to have a prompt of this kind to make you review the assumptions you make,” she said.
 
However, Wilson said any books it publishes must have a compelling story because “as Ruth Hunt said, some of the available books are pretty unexciting”.

Stephanie Barton, publisher for under 6s at Macmillan Children’s Books, said: “As with any submission, if we came across a strong and well-written text about a same-sex family we would consider the story on its own merits… We publish books which appeal to children from every kind of family and we are always keen to reflect a child’s world and experience, and same-sex families are part of that mix.”

On the bookselling side, Fen Coles, co-director of Letterbox Library, said there is a “very receptive” audience for these kinds of books. “We work with a large nursery chain and they told us that the early years sector is more receptive to same sex couples because of the change in culture. Parents are more open about their sexuality and staff want to reflect that in the books they have.” Melissa Cox, children’s buyer at Waterstones, said: “I thought Ruth Hunt’s comments were very reasonable and whilst we don’t get a huge amount of demand for these books in our shops currently, that doesn’t mean to say they shouldn’t be available.”