Tag Archives: Diversity

Young Ambassadors for diversity and inclusion

21 Apr

I’m making the assumption that if you read this blog you are already on board with the fact that inclusive and diverse books are groovy and important things. I figure you know that they can, and will, help the next generation change the world. And that’s why I want to share this campaign for Young Ambassadors by Inclusive Minds. They want to develop a network of young ambassadors with real experience of marginalisation (in all areas of diversity), who will share their knowledge with the book world. They will be the ace team who comment on ideas and manuscripts and help authors and the children’s publishing industry to create authentic diverse voices. This project has already been successfully piloted and will help to dramatically improve authenticity in books and give young people a real voice in the children’s book world. But they need our help.

Inclusive Minds is a not-for-profit collective who work with the children’s publishing industry to push for more inclusive and diverse characters and stories. They are awesome and they are making a real difference. Their crowdfunding campaign to roll out their Young Ambassadors campaign only has 8 days left and they need help to reach their target. There are some incredible perks on offer, like signed artwork and books, an hour’s consultation with Inclusive Minds for your writing and a ticket to the next Children’s Laureate ‘unveiling ‘. Even if you can’t contribute financially at the moment, please have a read of their plan – it might be something that can help the authors/creators among us – and consider sharing it.

I know times are hard but this campaign could make a huge difference to the books that the next generation are reading, showing them a wider more inclusive world view and helping them grow up to be empathetic and awesome human beings. Plus, end of month pay day is coming up and should fall within the last few days of the campaign.

Have a look here. Be a part of the mission to change the world, one book at a time.

Albie is back! And it’s AWESOME!

7 Oct

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The Albie books by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves hold a special place in my heart. My daughter has grown up with them as firm favourites and even now, as she embraces full length chapter books and reading to herself, she regularly returns to Albie’s adventures. Her face lit up when this one dropped through the letterbox. A sure sign of a winning format!

I love the Albie books because of their celebration of childhood and imagination, and for their brilliantly casual inclusion. I’ve raved before about how Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves do this and how much I love them for doing so. Because it is an important thing. They make these books so much fun for kids but at the same time they think responsibly about how they present Albie’s world to them. That makes them superheroes in my eyes.

This latest adventure sees Albie turning into a superhero in order to tidy his room in time for ice cream. How to Save a Superhero has all the qualities you expect from a superhero adventure – the villain, mild peril, the trap, the rescue and the okay-i’ll-be-good resolution. It is fast-paced, action-filled and super fun. But guess what? There are different shades of skin colour here! And the villain is female. And there’s a girl superhero. And at one point the girl rescues the boy! 


All brilliant things that make me super happy. But, once again, the children enjoying this book won’t actively notice any of those things. Because THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME and they will be far too busy dressing up as superheroes and desperately scrawling ‘I want a Flying Game Grabber and a Snooze Ray’ onto their wish lists. As it should be.

Bravo, Caryl! Bravo, Ed! High fives all round.

You can grab your copy here.

Source – kindly sent for review by Simon and Schuster.

The Secrets of Billie Bright

3 Aug

Firstly, let’s all take a moment to stare at this cover. It is clearly delicious and worthy of a few moments of celebration.


I love Susie Day’s Pea books and have been looking forward to this one ever since she first mentioned it on Twitter. Although The Secrets of Billie Bright isn’t a book about Pea, it is part of the Secrets series and is set in the same world – and includes many familiar characters and all the familiar joy. 

What I love most about Susie Day’s books is the casual inclusion. She is an expert at creating fictional worlds that truly and positively represent the diverse world kids live in today. And once again, she has aced it! 

‘Confident, sparky 11-year-old Billie loves being part of a busy, noisy, messy family: chirpy cafe-owner Dad and her three big brothers – grown-up Gabriel who’s getting married, disaster-prone Raffy, and sweet sporty Michael. She doesn’t mind being the only girl; just being the littlest. But she’s catching up, starting secondary school, leaving the little girl behind. When Miss Eagle tells her class to write a Hero Project about someone who inspires you, Billie knows exactly who to choose: her lovely mum, who died when she was little. She can’t wait to pull out her Memory Box, and hear all the old family stories. But no one seems to want to help. When Raffy angrily tells her to choose someone else, she knows something’s up. Mum left behind a secret. And when Billie unlocks it, nothing will ever be the same…’

It is so refreshing to read a book that represents the families and family events that I see and experience in real life and I am ever-thankful that Susie’s books exist for my daughter to read when she’s older. What makes me even happier is that the Pea books and the Secrets series reflect this diversity as casually and as positively as they do; that the inclusion is always secondary to the story and they never slip into becoming issue books. They are all about the things that are important to middle grade kids- the growing up and figuring out Big School and balancing friendships and deciding whether kissing is a good thing or not. Susie Day really gets what children of this age group are going through and her books are like growing up manuals. She is awesome at creating characters that you fall in love with; that are creative and intriguing and flawed and wonderful. She writes with such skill and pace and whips you along on a positive and affirming ride. 

My daughter has never been teased or treated any differently for having two mums. She is growing up in such a beautifully diverse school and inclusion is the norm for these kids. And slowly the books they are reading are catching up with their reality. Hurrah for Susie Day and for Billie Bright.  

But don’t take my word for it – read it for yourself. You can get your copy here. 

Freedom to live

2 Aug

Freedom to live – Why Ruth Hunt is right to encourage children to celebrate being gay and combat homophobia.

Today I gave Mollie her first lesson in gay politics. We were getting ready to go to Brighton Pride and she wanted to know what ‘Rainbow Day’ was all about. We’ve taken her every year since she was tiny but this was the first year she saw it as anything more than a big party and asked questions.
So I told her.
I told her that it was to celebrate all the families that had a daddy and a daddy, or a mummy and a mummy just like us; and all the women who wanted to love and live with other women, and men who wanted to love and live with other men; and all the men and women who were just like her best (boy) friend who wants to wear a dress and be a girl.

And I told her that it’s important to celebrate this because we are lucky that we have the freedom to live our lives how we want to. That, not that long ago, LGBT people didn’t have the right to love who we want to love and be who we want to be and that not everyone thinks we should have that freedom now. I shocked her by saying that in a lot of other countries, people don’t and can’t.

It was hard to tell her that the world isn’t always fair – a bit like greying out some of her innocence-tinted spectacles – but I answered her questions as honestly as I could considering she’s only 5. I hope I was able to explain the importance of celebrating equality in terms that she understood.

I’m glad I tried, because this year’s march was a beautiful mix of the personal and the political. It wasn’t just a big party. We had a wonderful day watching the Pride parade and celebrating with dear friends. We celebrated our freedom to live our lives together. We raised a glass to how far we have come. We put money in the donation buckets to support those fighting to sustain and spread that freedom. And all with Mollie at our sides, looking, questioning, learning.

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We have been lucky that Mollie hadn’t yet come across homophobia and that we have been able to teach her about it in such a positive way. Of course we have attempted to shield her from it as much as possible; we are constantly risk-assessing -where we go, who we spend time with, what we do. We have to. We have tried to fill her life with positive role models – and all the books that I review here – to teach her to celebrate diversity. But as soon as she started school our influence was gone. She was out in the world.

During her first year of school, Mollie has had a fantastic, supportive and liberal teacher who has (with the help of a stack of brilliantly inclusive books) taught Mollie and her peers about diversity in an inclusive way. We have been lucky. But it is luck. We live in a society that still treats LGBT people as less than equal. It’s a sad truth that at some point, directly or indirectly, Mollie will face negative comments about her family.

And that is why Ruth Hunt’s proposal to encourage children to celebrate being gay and combat homophobia is so important.

Ruth Hunt is the newly appointed Chief Executive of Stonewall. She hopes to commission a set of books that celebrates difference and send them to every pre-school. Imagine that! Every child under 5 having access to books celebrating difference and promoting equality. Every child having access to books they can see themselves and their family in. Every child learning that the world is diverse and that that is something to be celebrated. The books that I spend my time talking about and sharing and nudging authors to create, that folk like Inclusive Minds help produce and Letterbox Library help people find… they could be put into every pre-school.

I have been lucky enough to teach my daughter about equality before she came into contact with homophobia. Her class have been taught to celebrate difference. Now imagine a whole generation of pre-schoolers being taught the same. And imagine the roll on effect of that. It truly is powerful stuff.

So let’s all get behind Ruth Hunt and her celebration of difference. Let’s show her she’s right. That inclusive books work and that her idea could change our children’s world.

Photo courtesy of Caroline Norton.

Mommy, Mama, and Me and the importance of diversity in children’s books

19 Jun

When I was growing up there were no images of same sex individuals or families in my books, on the television, or in the wider media. And that made my life harder as a child. I had no obvious role models. Instead I looked for characters who had qualities that were similar to me, like Matilda who read everything she could find and felt like she didn’t quite fit. I had to wait until I was a young teenager to watch that all-important Brookside Beth Jordache kiss. I had to wait for 3 more years until I saw Ellen coming out in her sitcom. I was an adult before I found books by Jeanette Winterson, Alice Walker, Emma Donoghue and Leslea Newman.

Thankfully, things have changed significantly and now Leslea Newman has written Mommy, Mama, and Me and I can read it with my daughter and show her images of a family like hers.

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Mommy, Mama, and Me has shown me that there are books out there that echo my daughter’s family life. Not many, not enough, but some. She will be able to find images of herself and her family in her books and in the media, and I am confident that she will be able to find the person she wants to become. That is something to be celebrated, and supported.

Mommy, Mama, and Me is wonderful. It is a warm, affirming and happy book that follows a toddler through her/his day.

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It is beautifully, effortlessly inclusive. The toddler’s gender is left undefined so that girls and boys will be able to see themselves in the book. Each page shows the family enjoying a moment in their day together, from playing in the park to cooking and reading together. It is a gentle, positive celebration of family life.

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Mommy, Mama, and Me is one of the books in the early years ‘This is Me!’ Book pack created by Inclusive Minds and Letterbox Library. It is one of the books I recently ordered from Letterbox Library to read with my daughter, her friends, and the children who use the Rainbow Library. In this post I spoke about the importance of books that show children the wonderfully diverse world they live in. Young children see everything through eyes clear of prejudice and that is why it is so important that they have the opportunity to see books like Mommy, Mama, and Me and learn that all families are different but all families are equal.

Imagine if every library, every school, every nursery had a ‘This is Me!’ book pack. Imagine the children all reading these books and seeing every kind of child, every kind of family. Imagine them pointing to a picture and grinning as they find themselves in a book. And imagine them soaking up the pictures and the words and learning that everyone is different but everyone is equal. That is something so basic and yet so divisive and central to the progress of our entire society. This week it is being argued in the House of Lords whether same sex couples should be legally treated as equal. It is hard to listen to people debate whether I deserve to be treated equally. I expect the majority of voting members have not seen books with same sex families in, they certainly wouldn’t have seen them as children. So then, imagine what could be achieved if every child now grew up with access to books like Mommy, Mama, and Me and grew up knowing and understanding that everyone is different and everyone is equal. Think about the impact that could have.

That is why the ‘This is Me!’ Book packs are so important. It is why this blog exists, why I started the Rainbow Library and why I support Letterbox Library, Inclusive Minds and Child’sPlay. It is all striving towards the next generation being far more aware and understanding of diversity and equality than we are. Important, isn’t it! Perhaps at the end of this school year, instead of buying your child’s class teacher a big box of chocolates, you could buy them a small box and one of the books from the ‘This is Me!’ book packs to use with their next class. Or a bottle of wine for the teacher and a book for the school library? Perhaps you could support the Rainbow Library and make a donation towards a ‘This is Me!’ pack for the library? One book in a school library can make a difference. It all counts and it all adds up to more children growing up holding equality as a core belief. Let’s change the world, one book at a time.

Inclusive Minds

21 May

Beth Cox and Alexandra Strick work together under the name Inclusive Minds. Inclusive minds is a collective for all those with an interest in children’s books and diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature and are committed to changing the face of children’s books. Despite only running for a few months it is already gathering huge momentum and a reputation for quality and passion. You only have to look at their website to see the support pouring in for Beth and Alex and the work they do. Big names from the world of children’s books – Julia Donaldson, Meg Rosoff, Nick Sharratt, Joyce Dunbar – join with Letterbox Library, editors, publishers, book bloggers, librarians, teachers, lecturers, students, parents and equality campaigners such as Let Toys be Toys. It is clear to see that through Inclusive Minds, Beth and Alex have tapped into an area that people feel real passion for. And they are working hard to bring us all together, to educate and inspire, and to create some truly inclusive children’s books. Over to Beth to tell us more.

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1. Firstly, could you tell me a little bit about how Inclusive Minds came about?
Alexandra Strick and I first met when we were on the steering group for the In The Picture project. Since then we’ve worked together in a number of ways, but we wanted to formalise this, and also find a way of bringing together all the people interested in this area. We debated over a name for months, then inspiration struck Alex over coffee and a chat. We set up the website there and then.

2. What have you been involved in since creating Inclusive Minds?
We’ve only been going a couple of months, but just last week we had our first official Inclusive Minds event. We spoke at the Equip (Equality in Publishing) conference ‘Developing the Publishing Workforce‘, where, following some informal research, we spoke about the link between a diverse workforce and diverse content in children’s books. Some of the details from this research will be on our website soon.
Alex also ran an ‘Equal Measures’ seminar at the London Book Fair which had an Inclusive Minds slant. I was on the panel, which also included Fen Coles from Letterbox Library and Erica Gillingham, and the inspirational Verna Wilkins was a keynote speaker.
Alongside companies such as Letterbox Library, we are also lucky enough to work closely with other great organisations like Booktrust (to whom Alex is a regular consultant) and Child’s Play, both of whom share our passion for making books inclusive and accessible. For example, we have recently worked together to create a tactile book, designed around the needs of blind and partiality sighted children. It’s involved a lot of research to get it just right, including visits to places such as New College Worcester to get direct feedback from children themselves. Most books designed for blind and partially sighted children are individually produced, and mass-market touch and feel books are often unsuitable for these children. This will be the first mainstream book of its kind (with hopefully more to follow). The book will be included in the Booktrust Booktouch pack, as well as being sold in mainstream outlets.
We’re also editing a special edition of Write 4 Children Journal, which will be due out very soon.

3. The special edition of the Write 4 Children journal you are editing is on the theme Diversity, Inclusion and Equality in children’s writing and literature. This topic is very close to my heart. How has the process been so far?
It’s been an interesting process for both of us, and certainly a learning curve. We’ve had such a great response, so instead of the usual eight articles that are included, we’ll be having around twenty! Once we received the submissions, we had to send them off for peer review. Once the articles had been accepted, I edited them, then passed them on to Alex for additional editing and comments, and now we’re in the process of sending them back to the authors for approval and amendments. Once they come back to us, we’ll just have time for a final proofread before publication!

4. Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the topics you’ll be including?
There are a number of articles looking at gender stereotypes, a few at the representation of disabled characters. Adoption; fairy tales; cultural diversity; accessibility. As well as one looking at political and radical messages in children’s books, it’s going to be a great edition.

5. What other exciting projects do you have tucked behind your ear?
Now, that would be telling. We’re hoping to have some exciting announcements soon, but we can’t say anything just yet. We are actively seeking funding for some big projects that will really kick start our mission in changing the face of children’s books.

6. What is your great passion?
A lot of the work that Alex and I do on Inclusive Minds is currently unpaid and has to take place during the evenings and weekends, but neither of us mind that too much, because we truly love and believe in what we do – so I’d have to say that my greatest passion is my work. That and cheese.

7. What book are you in love with right now?
I’ve been raving about Maggot Moon for a good six months now, it’s an inclusive books that is very much mainstream. I also finally read A Monster Calls and have never been quite so moved by a book. The Inclusive Minds website will spotlight some of the books that we love, we just need a few more hours in the day to get the reviews online!

8. What is your hope for the future of children’s books?
I truly hope that one day, I can walk in to a book shop, pick up a book at random, and find a diverse range of characters inside. Whether that’s a same-sex family, a disabled character (who isn’t a wheelchair-user), a ‘sensitive’ boy, an independent girl, a youthful looking granny, a black or asian protagonist… the list goes on. When I’m confident that ANY mainstream children’s book can offer me that, then I’ll be happy.

Hugely inspiring stuff. Beth and Alex are working hard to make a difference and their work is already paying off and influencing how children can see themselves in their books. If you share Beth and Alex’s belief in diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature then why not show them your support by adding your name to their supporters page on their website. You can also follow them on twitter at InclusiveMindsA and InclusiveMindsB.
Thank you so much, Beth and Alex, for your time in answering these questions and for all your support for this blog. I think Inclusive Minds is a hugely important and inspiring movement and I am proud to be involved. I am very much looking forward to your edition of the Write 4 children journal and excited about what you will achieve in the future. Congratulations on such an impressive start and thank you for using your passion to bring about real change.

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award – THIS SATURDAY!

10 May

Today I planned to write a post about a very exciting event taking place in London tomorrow. But I’m not going to. Because Loll at Storyseekers has written such a comprehensive and motivating post that there’s really nothing I can add to do it further justice. Instead, I shall repost it here for you to all enjoy. I wish all involved with the book fair the very best of luck for a wonderful event. I’m very much looking forward to reading about it.

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If any of you are in London this Saturday – May 11th, 2013 – and looking for a way to spend a very happy few hours with some very exciting people from the world of radical children’s literature, then I suggest you head down to the London Radical Bookfair at Conway Hall.
Not only is this event free and open to all, but will there be a whole host of authors, illustrators and booksellers there to inspire you and share their passion for the thriving world of radical bookselling in the UK.  Since I’ve started blogging about books and reading (and spending even more time on Twitter chatting about them) I’ve been lucky enough to come across people who are absolutely committed to making children’s books as inclusive as possible and, cheesy though it sounds, I am learning from them all the time.
There’s far too much to go into…

View original post 596 more words

Just Because by Rebecca Elliott

11 Mar

Just Because is a touching story of the relationship between a little boy called Toby and his best friend – his big sister Clemmie. Toby introduces us to Clemmie and their world through the repeated phrase ‘I don’t know why…just because’.

On the first page we see Clemmie in a wheelchair and Toby tells us that Clemmie can’t walk, talk or move around much. He doesn’t know why, just because. He goes on to explain that she can’t pilot a plane or do algebra either. But she does have the biggest hair in the world and is very much like a princess.

The illustrations and text create a real sense of fun and adventure as we explore Toby and Clemmie’s world. As we progress through the book we see that we all have different tastes, strengths and weaknesses and everyone is different.

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The wonderful thing about Just Because is the way that these differences are introduced with such child-like innocence. Having a child narrator emphasises the unconditional acceptance that comes with innocence, emphasising to children that people are different, just because, and helping to strip learned prejudices from adult readers.

Hurrah to Rebecca Elliott for creating such a brilliant book. A wonderful way to introduce young children to diversity and to help them understand that everyone is different and enjoys different things, just because.

Source: Our lovely local library.

Published in 2010