Not-for-profit promotes 'inclusive' kids books

Not-for-profit promotes 'inclusive' kids books

Outside in World, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes children’s books in translation, is launching a new initiative to bring inclusive and accessible books from around the world to the UK.
 
The Reading the Way project is aimed at making UK publishers aware of books for children aged five to 11 that are either accessible (suitable for children with learning difficulties or additional needs) or inclusive (have differently abled characters in the story), and are originally published in languages other than English.
 
Alexandra Strick, one of the founders of Outside In World, said: “This is still a particularly under-supported area within the UK children’s book industry and all too often children with additional needs are effectively excluded. The needs of many young people, such as those with speech and language difficulties, learning difficulties or sensory impairments, are largely overlooked by mainstream books.”
 
The organisation is currently sourcing books from around the world using a variety of methods, either through local IBBY groups (the International Board on Books for Young People) or word of mouth.
 
Strick has so far seen books from countries as varied as Italy, Greece, Slovenia, France, Hungary, Japan and South Korea. “We've found stunning picture books made accessible to children with additional needs through Widget symbols and books featuring really meaningful tactile elements and braille.”
 
There are also a lot of inclusive books coming out of the Middle East with a “broad range of storylines featuring disabilities”.
 
The organisation has already held a focus group with publishers to explain the project and all the attendees were “very positive” about the initiative, she added.
 
Outside in World has a team of translators to translate the best books into English and in September it will start testing the books with schools and charities, including the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). It will then approach publishers to see if they are interested in taking them on.
 
“We will eventually have a list of about 20 exceptional titles,” she said. “We hope publishers will gain valuable insight into accessible and inclusive books but of course we also hope some of the books will be published in the UK.”
 
Strick hopes to reveal the results of the project in 2015 in time for both the Bologna Book Fair in March and the London Book Fair in April.
 
Outside In World is funding the Reading the Way project thanks to a £22,550 grant from the Arts Council of England and £3,000 from the Unwin Charitable Trust.

There has been resurgence of interest in inclusive children’s books in recent months, including from former children’s laureate Sir Quentin Blake. His book The Five of Us, about a group of friends with different abilities, will be published by Tate Publishing in September.
 
Philip Ardagh, the new Booktrust writer in residence, also spoke out about the issue in his first blog post for the charity earlier this month.
 
In the post, published 4th August, he said: “Shouldn’t we all be able to find books peopled with people like us or the people around us?  Diversity in books is about reflecting the world about us. If I were profoundly deaf, I'd like to stumble upon a profoundly deaf character between the covers of a book once in a while. It's common sense!”