Our kids have a lot of influences in their lives, a lot we can’t control, but some we can, and we do have the most incredible opportunity to help them fill their brains with brilliant stories from birth. Stories that reflect the diversity of our population, that introduce them to Mums who wear Hijabs, stepdads who do the school run, blended families, or families with two Mums or two Dads. Because if we show children the world through beautiful inspiring stories that include everybody, they learn to understand, accept, and expect diversity throughout their lives.
At Little Box of Books we believe books provide a strong foundation from which we can grow an equal, respectful and cohesive society. But we have a long way to go…
Only 7% of children’s books published in the last three years featured a black, Asian or minority ethnic main character, despite 33% of our school children being of black, Asian or minority ethnic origins. This gives messages to children about who is worthy to be in stories, whose voices are worthy of being heard and sets expectations for what people can do with their lives.
Never seeing themselves in stories, can stop children from recognising and realising their potential which has an impact on the whole of society and the economy.
Of course, a lack of representation impacts children to different levels. But it does have an impact. I always said I wanted to be a nurse when I was growing up because I instinctively knew that doctors were men. I remember never even questioning it. Feeling a bit sad but resigned to the fact that there were jobs that just weren’t for me. It didn’t galvanise me into action it was just a quiet knowledge that narrowed down my view of what I could do or achieve.
How many children are silently accepting that there are some doors that are just always going to remain closed to them because of their background, skin colour or culture? It is such a pointless waste of potential and talent, that is completely fixable with a bit of care and attention.
And it’s not just diversity of race that is badly represented in children’s books. Depictions of women can be extremely limited and limiting
“When it comes to children’s books, the word Mother is the most frequent noun used to refer to female characters and has been since the 19th century. But despite this, mothers are rarely the heroes or protagonists in children’s fiction, often they don’t even have a name.”
Many stories teach our kids that mother is a supporting role that isn’t worthy of a name???
Why do we let our children read stories that teach them outdated views of what womanhood is? We would never intentionally tell them lies, so why do we let them read stories that tell them over and over again that; 1) women must be mothers, 2) they don’t work if they are mothers, 3) and there are no single women unless they’re witches.
Our world is packed full of fascinating, intelligent and talented people, but so few of them get to tell their stories. When this happens, we all miss out on being inspired by different perspectives, experiences, cultures and lifestyles.
Intentionally show your children the breadth and diversity of love that’s available to them, the relationships they can have, the lives and cultures that look different to theirs and give them the opportunity to keep their minds and hearts wide open, full of kindness, compassion and understanding.
To get a free downloadable guide to diversifying your bookshelves, please head here
Lynsey set up Little Box of Books in 2018 after realising when she was a single parent that her family was invisible in children’s books, since then she has worked with more than 400 schools, donated more than 12,000 books to schools and families in the UK and worked with celebrities such as Rochelle Humes, Giovanna Fletcher and Fearne Cotton to raise awareness of the lack of diversity and representation in children’s books. Lynsey has been interviewed on Channel 4 News, BBC Breakfast, ITV News, Sky News and Channel 5 News and has featured in Grazia, The Times, Sunday Times Style Magazine, Red Magazine, Woman’s Hour, Metro, the Guardian and the New Statesman but her proudest moment was when she was trolled by Laurence Fox and his friends for being too woke.
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