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BAME representation in children's books rises

19th Sep 19

The second Reflecting Realities report, a survey of ethnic representation in UK children's literature, shows an increased presence of BAME characters in children's books during 2018 compared to the previous year.

This is the second year the survey has been conducted by CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) in the UK, with the aim of identifying and highlighting representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic people within picture books, fiction and non-fiction for ages 3 11.

The percentage of children's books featuring a BAME character has risen from 4% in 2017 (when the first report was published) to 7% in 2018, and there has also been an increase in BAME protagonists, from 1% in 2017 to 4% in 2018.

11,011 books were published for children in 2018, of which 743 books were found to have a BAME presence. Despite the slight rise in representation, there is still some way to go to be fully reflective of the population since BAME pupils make up 33.1% of the school population in England.

The report also cautions that publishers must not compromise on quality in order to prioritise quantity of representative characters. As well as highlighting good practice examples, the report outlines areas that still need to be addressed to accurately and positively portray people from a range of ethnic backgrounds.

Louise Johns-Shepherd, Chief Executive of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education said, "We are heartened that more children will be able to see themselves reflected in their reading material but we are also aware that this is just the beginning of a journey. The call for more inclusive books is as much about quality as it is about volume. Better representation means just that, better in all regards, because all young readers deserve the best that the literary world has to offer."

The genre of books submitted for the 2018 cycle reflected publishing market trends, including an increase in fantasy and social justice titles. The results of the report also demonstrate an increase in action within the industry, not only via new initiatives such as the establishment of the Round Table Books bookshop in Brixton and the BookTrust Represents campaign, but also with publishers becoming more vocal about their inhouse initiatives and strategies
which tackle representation within the industry.

Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, said, "While it is positive to see incremental progress in these new figures, publishers know that there is much more to do and that the rate of change must accelerate
further. The emphasis on quality as well as volume recognised here is also important. As well as building on established initiatives, publishers are making changes to areas such as their commissioning and submissions processes."

Arts Council England (ACE) has funded the survey for three years to ensure there are benchmark figures for the industry and a clear picture of the improvements taking place. Sarah Crown, Director of Literature at Arts Council England, said, "CLPE's work in investigating the diversity of characters in children's books, and highlighting the importance of the quality of that representation, continues to be critical as we consider how to support the sector in ensuring that all children are able to see themselves in the books that they read.

"While it's very encouraging to see an improvement in rates of representation in this year's survey, it's also important to note that at this stage, the improvement is incremental.

"We will continue to work with CLPE to identify what actions may be needed to increase the rate of change."

You can download the full report here:

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