Saturday, October 23

Move Above David Walliams … the quest to diversify children’s books has begun | Books

A program that aims to address the lack of diversity in children’s books was launched after its founder said that the practice of wealthier authors paying for support to get published was “skewing the landscape” for authors of low income.

All Stories, which launched this month, is one of several schemes recently established to help authors from underrepresented groups enter the children’s book market, which is heavily dominated by white celebrities like Tom Fletcher and David Walliams. Other schemes include Write now, an editorial program launched last year by Penguin Random House to nurture the talents of 14 underrepresented writers, and Megaphone, a tutorial and masterclass scheme that supports six writers of color for one year.

the Mentoring scheme for all stories It was founded by Catherine Coe, a white British independent children’s book publisher with 20 years of experience. He found that more aspiring child authors are paying freelance publishers and taking writing courses to “polish” their manuscripts and get advice on release, before submitting their stories to publishers.

“What I’ve been seeing is that many, if not most, of the early children’s book authors published today are those who have been able to afford the support to develop their writing,” he said.

Melissa Abraham, a London-based Ghanaian-born writer who earned a spot on All Stories, has lost count of how many times her children’s stories have been rejected by publishers and agents.

An illustration of Dapo Adeola's debut Hey You!
An illustration of Dapo Adeola’s debut Hey You! Photography: Joelle Avelino

“There has been a lot. I’d say hit 100, ”he said. “I didn’t want to give up. I have these stories to tell and I feel like the kids would enjoy them. “

The scheme is funded by the Arts Council England and the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, and will provide 14 aspiring low-income children’s authors from diverse backgrounds with six months of monthly one-on-one tutoring sessions and networking masterclasses.

Abraham hopes to publish an illustrated book about an African-Caribbean girl who discovers that she can transform slime into whatever she wants. “I think that children who belong to ethnic minorities should have access to stories in which the main character looks like them. I didn’t really have that myself, as a kid. “

Last year, the reading charity Booktrust reported that 93% of children’s books were written by white people, while 2019 research from the Center for Literacy in Elementary Education found that only 5% of children’s books they featured a main character from an ethnic minority. Nine out of 10 books did not contain any BAME characters at all. Nine out of 10 books did not contain any BAME character, yet 33% of primary school-age children in England are of minority ethnic origin.

In 2019, the guardian He analyzed the diversity of the most popular picture books and found that, despite Julia Donaldson’s enormous popularity, the vast majority were written and illustrated by white men.

Dapo Adeola, an award-winning British-Nigerian children’s illustrator and author, is not convinced that children’s publishers are doing enough to improve diversity in the industry. “It is very good that they are initiating these schemes. But I do think you can take a more direct and easier approach if publishers are willing to step out of the door that they are opening for people to come in and go to these communities. ”

Publishers advance only in small steps, he says. “Everything they seem to be doing reinforces the whole narrative that ‘one or two black people can walk through this door at the same time.’ I don’t see enough groundwork. “

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