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New resource celebrating writers of colour launches

DIVERSITY: Dapo Adeola, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé and Malorie Blackman

THE FIRST free national resource to celebrate 100 British writers and illustrators of colour producing quality work for children and young people in the UK, will be launched by Speaking Volumes at London Book Fair today (Mar 13).

Launched in partnership with leading children’s literature organisations BookTrust and Pop Up Projects, Breaking New Ground is a call to action for the publishing industry to be more culturally inclusive regarding their children and YA output. Alongside writers and illustrators, the publication also celebrates the 130 publishers (including 19 from outside the UK) who have published them.

Sharmilla Beezmohun, Director, Speaking Volumes, said: “Against a backdrop of growing intolerance, racism and xenophobia, Breaking New Ground is our contribution to the wider campaign being waged across many fronts to change the lack of cultural inclusion and diversity in children and YA literature. We are pushing for a nationwide transformation for the authors and illustrators who get published to be as multicultural as the society we live in.”

According to BookTrust, headline statistics from its research with University College London on the representation of authors and illustrators of colour in children’s books, published in the UK over the last 11 years, shows that fewer than 2 per cent were British people of colour.

Pop Up Projects recently found that 50 per cent of the BAME authors it worked with had experienced prejudice or discrimination in their professional encounters with publishers. But it also discovered that 50 per cent felt that publishing was becoming increasingly receptive to, and encouraging of diversity in their characters and stories.

Jill Coleman, Director of Children’s Books, BookTrust, commented: “Books can act as windows for children, providing valuable insight into a broad spectrum of different lives and cultures.

“We know there is a wealth of talent within our industry, some of which remains untapped, so we want to support Breaking New Ground to put a spotlight on authors and illustrators of colour in the UK more widely, both within the publishing industry and beyond. This will give more children the chance to see themselves reflected in the books they read, and among the people that make them.”

Errol Lloyd

Among the 100 creatives featured in the brochure is acclaimed illustrator Errol Lloyd, aged 76, who was first published in 1973 when he was Highly Commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustrating My Brother Sean, while the youngest writer listed, 20 year old Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s debut book Ace of Spades will be published by Usborne Publishing in 2020.

With 30,000 free copies to be distributed in the first phase, Breaking New Ground features a colour-coded guide by age, genre, region and publisher for each writer and illustrator, and contains research and specially commissioned essays on the state of children and YA publishing.

BookTrust will send the brochure to every school in the UK, and it will be made available to local libraries, event programmers, teachers, parents, literary agents, local authorities as well as publishers to use for a range of activities, from booking authors for readings to commissioning new work.

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