How to find diverse books for your family – by Patrick Adom
Diversity in children’s literature
A recent study that shows there is a serious lack of diverse books, just 1% of children’s books in Britain star a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) character, and only 4% feature BAME characters at all, according to research by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.
These finding shouldn’t be surprising as this lack of representation is also present in films and in the majority of the media that is produced in the UK, Europe and America in general. This of course doesn’t make the lack of diversity right and there should be a continued effort to address the inbalance.
In addition to the lack of diversity in books, when you do find a book featuring BAME characters they tend to be about slavery, historical characters that had to struggle to overcome injustice or fleeing war and other conflicts. As an African father I believe that I have to be careful to ensure that my children are given good positive impressions of the African Caribbean experience.
How you can find diverse books
I was hit by this lack of diversity and I also appreciate how difficult it can be do fine good diverse books, so I did some leg work and came-up with a few life hacks and resources that I hope you will find useful when it comes to finding good quality books that feature BAME characters.
There are many websites and social media pages that are dedicated to highlighting and showcasing quality books that have diverse characters, good examples are these are: @hereweread, @mayabooknook, @weneeddiversebooks, @blackbabybooks, @phildmusic and @booksfordiversity.
There have been many parents and concerned individuals that have setup their own publishing companies and self published their own books to help address the imbalance, some examples of these are: @littledrumpublishing, @rileycanbeanything, @celishabooks, @daddydomyhair, @littlelits_, @AshleyHindsWHDB, @AlannaMaxBooks, and @LauraChildcare.
There are also established publishing companies that are aimed at publishing books featuring diverse characters, good examples of these are: Tamarind Books, Junior African Writers Series (JAWS) and Barefootbooks.
To be kept up-to-date of new and upcoming book releases and also books that have been previously released there are websites such as @hereweread. As well as getting a library card for your local library, sign-up for your online library service. Using your online account simply search for any books that you are interested that you would have highlighted on the @hereweread website, if your library has the book you can reserve it online and collect at your local library when it becomes available.
If your local library doesn’t have the book, you can also search on Amazon, what I tend to do is to create a wish list. I then review the wish list every month or so and sometimes come across some good bargains. Sometimes a book my be discounted by up to 80% which is hard to resist!
There are also some really good Black bookshops and gift shops in the UK that cater for BAME children such as New Beacon Books, My Book Basket, This is Book Love, Monero kids boutique and No Ordinary Bookshop.
Why I enjoy reading to my daughter
I enjoy reading to my daughter, it’s one of the favorite pastimes that we share together. I read to my daughter while she was in her mothers tummy and continued to read to her as a new born baby until the present day as a 6 year old and she can now read for herself. I read to her when she wakes up and I read to her at bed time.
Pride of place in my living room are my bookcases and my daughter’s books occupy two shelves of their own. For her birthday and Christmas I will always buy my daughter a book as well as other gifts.
The benefits of reading to children are well documented and proven, these include:
- Reading to young children sets them up to succeed
- Reading develops language skills
- Exposure to reading exercises your child’s brain
- Reading enhances a child’s concentration
- Reading together encourages a thirst for knowledge
- A range of books teaches children about different topics
- Reading develops a child’s imagination and creativity
- Reading books with children helps to develop empathy
- Books are a great form of entertainment
- Reading together helps to create a bond
Written by Patrick Adon, Founder Very Puzzled