A study into ethnic representation in children’s literature in the United Kingdom tried to find out how many books featured BAME (Black or minority ethnic) characters.
The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) report can be seen here.
What they found
9115 childrens books were published in the UK in 2017.
In contrast, 391 featured BAME characters.
Furthermore, 4% of the childrens books in 2017 featured BAME characters.
10% of books with BAME characters contained ‘social justice’ issues.
Over half the fiction books with BAME characters were defined as ‘contemporary realism’, or books set in modern day landscapes or contexts.
One book featuring a BAME character was a ‘comedy’.
26% of the non-fiction submissions were for an ‘Early Years’ audience.
What does it mean?
If you aren’t a white British person then you will see or read about someone like you four times for every one hundred books you open. Some people think it’s an embarrassing statistic. Others don’t.
More importantly, it shows the opportunity in children’s literature to create, publish and sell books about all kinds of people. At the moment there are more books (26%) for very young children of all kinds. In contrast, older readers, who have opinions about the kinds of books and people they like, or dislike, don’t see enough characters from all backgrounds in their books.
What happens next?
It’s not easy to argue for or against something with numbers alone. We miss the many stories, reasons and answers in between. However, the report shows the areas where things can improve in children’s literature. That is perhaps the best thing about it. New books about and from the BAME communities are on the way. Some will be hits. Some will miss their targets. Above all, they will be taking publishing into a new direction and with time reflecting the way things really are in the United Kingdom – rich, vibrant and exciting!
Promise no 4: We (the grown ups) promise to make sure there is the same quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
That means, by 2030 we will see all girls and boys, completing free, fair and good quality primary and secondary education.