Primary schools in England to be supported to bring inclusive and representative stories into the classroom
Every primary school in England will receive a free copy of Happy Here, a new anthology from 20 Black British writers and illustrators. Published by inclusive publisher Knights Of, Happy Here includes stories and poems which explore themes of joy, home and family through a wide range of genres and styles.
The initiative is part of a wider long-term programme of research and activity led by BookTrust and The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) to empower changes in teaching practice and improve representation in children's literature and publishing.
CLPE is providing a free teaching sequence for Key Stage 2, to support schools in the study and enjoyment of Happy Here as part of their Literacy Curriculum. CLPE will also make available online CPD sessions for teachers to learn more about the importance of representation in the classroom, while Booktrust is running a free event with Joseph Coelho on 13th October for Black History Month.
The Happy Here initiative follows the publication in 2020 of BookTrust Represents' Interim Research and CLPE's annual Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children's Literature, which highlighted the under-representation of children's authors and illustrators of colour, and of minority ethnic characters within children's books, respectively.
While both reports have found some positive progress in representation over the three years of reporting (2017-2019), there remains a long way to go. CLPE reported that 10% of children’s books feature characters from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, and BookTrust Represents found the number of authors and illustrators of colour published in the UK standing at just 8% of the total number published. This is despite 33.5% of primary school aged children in England being from a minority ethnic background.
Speaking about the impact of an inclusive curriculum, Jane Kelly, Vice-Principal at Harrow Gate Academy, said, "Holding up a 'mirror' to a learner's personal realities is not enough; we need to also show the children 'windows' into other cultures. It's crucial that teachers and children work with texts that broaden horizons and offer wider views of the world.
"Sharing positive representations of minority ethnic characters has allowed our children to respond positively to unfamiliar situations and settings, think about alternative perspectives and viewpoints - as well as grapple with thought-provoking dilemmas. Our focus on mutual respect, tolerance and empathy has evolved into a whole school journey that celebrates diversity and a broad effort to help our children to find their own place in the world - the wide world!"
The 4th annual CLPE Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature, evaluating representation in children’s books published in the UK in 2020 will be published in November 2021. The next BookTrust Represents research study into the representation of people of colour among children’s book creators in the UK will be published in Autumn 2022.