New research has found that 11.7% of creators of children’s books published in the UK in 2021 are people of colour, up from 5.6% in 2017.
Diana Gerald, chief executive of BookTrust, said in a foreword to the report that despite much progress, “Children’s literature in the UK as a whole remains far from being representative”.
A representative report of people of color among UK children’s book creators by Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold from the University of Glasgow and commissioned by BookTrust. The survey found that only 4.5% of children’s book creators were people of color in the UK, although 11.7% were people of colour overall. However, there are 74 debuting creators of color in the UK in 2021, up from 12 in 2017.
In addition to statistical research, the report also interviewed 20 authors and illustrators about their experiences in the publishing industry, including Dapo Adeola, Maisie Chan, Serena Patel, Dean Atta, Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Onyinye Iwu. Some said they had stronger relationships with publishers and saw publishers making long-term investments in the careers of creators of color.
However, creators also felt “unable or unwilling to speak out about incidents of racism and discrimination in publishing” and raised concerns that “some publishers are superficially addressing issues of exclusion and underrepresentation”. Some authors argue that some publishers are rushing to publish books by creators of color simply to capitalize on the popularity and demand for “diverse” books.
“We got a lot of what I would call cookie cutter books,” Adeola said. “Fill books, just to fill shelf space and tick boxes” so that publishers can say “we have this book […] About diversity. “
Dr Ramdarshan Bold said it was “great to see an initial increase in the number of children’s color creators published in the UK”.
But, she added, “beyond the numbers, it’s clear there’s a lot more work to do to make children’s publishing more equitable”.
“Creators of color interviewed for this report spoke very honestly about their experiences with children’s publishing — both positive and negative — outlining some of the main barriers and drivers they faced,” she continued. “This ranges from everyday micro-aggressions to positive allies in the publishing industry to the joyful impact of school visits. I hope that book industry professionals, and those involved with children’s books, will really reflect on these experiences and the report as a whole, To ensure that diversity, equality and inclusion are sustainable and deeply rooted parts of the world of children’s books.”
Also released Wednesday is BookTrust’s second report on the experiences of elementary school teachers and students welcoming creators of color into their classrooms.
BookTrust’s support on behalf of schools: 2022 assessment report finds that “representation of children’s books and their creators has a key influence on children’s wider learning experiences and development both in and out of the classroom”. It also found that visits from creators of color inspired many students to “write their own stories, and the authors they met were positive role models.”
“There are now more opportunities for creators of color to publish children’s books in the UK, which means more children can read their amazing stories,” Gerald said.
“However, creators of color still run into obstacles,” she continued. “Overall, the British children’s literature system is still far from representative when you consider the number of previously published books that still inspire children and live on shelves today.
“Improving the representation of books that children read remains a top priority for us, and we are committed to working with children, families, creators, publishers, schools, libraries and more until we achieve this goal.”