Publishers and representatives of the UK children's book industry are campaigning to set up a UK branch of We Need Diverse Books to improve diversity and representation in children’s books, as Knights Of co-founder Aimée Felone said the project needs industry-wide support.
Like its US counterpart, We Need Diverse Books UK is hoping to bring together partners from across the publishing industry to improve representation both in terms of staff and output. On Monday night, Dhonielle Clayton, who is c.o.o. of We Need Diverse Books in the US, spoke to an 86-strong audience of authors and publishers to launch the campaign for a UK version of the organisation.
Aimée Felone, co-founder of inclusive publisher Knights Of and one of the organiser’s of last night’s event, said: “We wanted last night to be a neutral space. As a publisher, we are told we are doing good things [to improve diversity and representation] but we are not doing enough as an industry. Publishers want there to be more collaboration.”
We Need Diverse Books UK will hopefully become a charity, said Felone, and the organisation is currently looking for someone to lead it, as well as people with expertise in admin, marketing and fundraising, and social media.
“As an industry we are not doing enough to improve the 1% statistic,” said Felone, referencing research from CLPE showing that only 1% of children’s books published in the UK in 2017 had a BAME main character. “This can’t be a Knights Of thing, the whole industry needs to take part.”
Clayton gave a 20-minute talk on how the organisation campaigns in the US for changes in the publishing system to encourage greater representation. She also took part in a Q&A session with freelance journalist Sarah Shaffi, and took questions from the audience.
Volunteers will be asked to give their time for a defined period such as three months and anyone who wants to volunteer to join the organisation can get in touch via the We Need Diverse Books UK Twitter account @DiverseBooksUK.