It is hard to respond to the events that have devastated Paris this week. Words like ‘shocking’ and ‘awful’ lose meaning and can’t sum up what has happened. I think that’s why so many people have responded with action. People have stood together in solidarity, held pencils in the air, and used hashtags like #IAmCharlie and #IAmAhmed.
The response across social media has been uplifting, inspiring, and hopeful. Cartoonists and illustrators have put pen to paper to show their support. People are thinking and discussing, showing real passion and a commitment to stand up for freedom of expression and equality. My twitter timeline is full of positivity.
A couple of the responses I’ve seen over the last few days have really chimed with me:
This illustration from Sarah McIntyre
And Zoe’s response at Playingbythebook. She has put together a list of inclusive children’s/YA books that “might help spread understanding of what life can be like for Muslims living in the west.”
Both responses are hopeful; looking forward and celebrating literature’s power to bring change. And that’s what I want to focus on too. Because books really are windows into other worlds. The more children see and understand other cultures, religions, ideas and beliefs, the more they will understand. The more they read, the more they will empathise with others.
So my response has been to sign up to take part in a workshop looking at how to pro-actively improve authentic inclusion in children’s publishing. A Place at the Table is on Wednesday 28th January, run by Inclusive Minds, the Publishers Association, the IPG and EQUIP. Here’s the workshop description:
(A Place at the Table) will give participants the unique opportunity to come together in force to show their commitment to achieving real inclusion and diversity in children’s books. The discussion will range from the importance of access to inclusive and diverse books, to identifying the barriers, to ideas for practical and commercially sound strategies to enable the children’s book world to move forward.
The workshop is primarily for the book industry, teachers and librarians but has places for others interested in equality and inclusion. There are still places available. Come along, have a place at the table. Help make the change.
Let’s work together to get these stories told, these inclusive books published. Let’s make 2015 the year that inclusion in children’s literature and equality in choice and access become a reality. You can help make it happen. Use your voice, your keyboard, your pen or your pencil. Think about the power you have in your words and your creativity- what you choose to make, what you choose to buy, what you choose to read to your children. Above all, think of the people who are listening and watching, reading and looking. What do they need to see? What do they deserve to hear?
Make the change.