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Representation in Children's Books

11th Nov 20

Research into representation in children's books has found that there is still some way to go before books fully reflect society, with just 10% of children's books published in 2019 featuring characters of colour.

Research from BookTrust Represents' Interim Research and CLPE's Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children's Literature, both report some positive progress over the past three years (2017-2019), but there remains some way to go for representation in children's books and publishing to mirror UK society.

The research found that the number of children's books published in the UK from 2017 to 2019 featuring characters from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background has grown from 4% in 2017 and 7% in 2018 to 10% in 2019.

Of the 6,500 books published in the UK in 2019, 680 featured ethnic minority characters, although only 5% of the books published had an ethnic minority child as the main character.

This means that there is still significant under-representation in children's books compared to the UK primary school population, where one third of children are from a minority ethnic background.

CLPE found there has also been a slight increase of 3% in the number of authors and illustrators of colour published in the UK in the last three years, from under 6% in 2017 to over 8% in 2019, while BookTrust found that the number of British debut creators of colour has increased from 12 in 2017 to 24 in 2019, but nearly half of these are self-published or published by a hybrid publisher.

The CLPE report, which considered representation within picture books, fiction and non-fiction for ages 3-11, provides a benchmark to track and understand progress and to encourage the move towards a more inclusive future.

BookTrust Represents research aims to increase the number of published creators of colour of children's books and for children to have access to and to read more books by creators of colour. The latest findings from BookTrust's interim results show that whilst there has been an increase, there is still a long way to go.

Jill Coleman, Director of children's books at BookTrust said: 'Books play an important role in shaping children's lives : these stories and characters will affect how they see themselves and the world around them, their motivation to read, and their aspirations to become authors and illustrators of the future.

"We are pleased to see that there has been slow and steady progress in the representation of authors and illustrators of colour since 2017: but we are ambitious to achieve more." The organisation is challenging the industry to increase the number of creators of colour in the UK to 13% by 2022.

CEO of CLPE Louise Johns-Shepherd, welcomed the growing level of representation in children's books but added, "This change will take time because we also know that the structures and systems in place are entrenched and societal. Whilst the third year of data shows a continued increase from the first and second year of this work, we believe that there is still much to be done."

You can download the full CLPE Reflecting Realities report, below, and visit the Booktrust Represents website via this link:
Download PDF

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