Today the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) release 5 years of data in their annual Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature showing that 20% of children’s books published in 2021 feature a minority ethnic character, a significant increase from the 4% reported in 2017.
The annual CLPE survey, which is funded by Arts Council England, launched in 2017 with the key focus of determining the extent and quality of ethnic minority characters featured within Picturebooks, Fiction and Non-Fiction for ages 3–11 published in the UK. The five years of reporting provide benchmark statistics which have seen a sustained increase in the number and percentage of books that contain characters from racial minorities; a standard which is vital in ensuring all children have the opportunity to become readers by providing books where they can see themselves, their experience and the wider world reflected.
The increase of representative titles published also corresponds with an increase in the presence of ethnic minority main characters, with 9% of the children’s books published in 2021 featuring minority ethnic main characters, up from 1% in 2017. However, while this slow but positive growth is to be welcomed there remains a significant disparity between the demographic make up of story worlds compared to the world as actually experienced by young readers.
CEO of CLPE Louise Johns-Shepherd, said of the next steps: "We are delighted to see the upward trend in numbers, we are determined that it won’t be a ‘trend’ that disappears or that dips. We will continue to do this work and to support ongoing dialogue within the publishing industry because we believe in the power of children’s literature to change lives and we believe inclusive representative casts of characters in children’s literature make books better."
Sarah Crown, Director, Literature, Arts Council England said: "We know that a child's life chances are improved by their access to and enjoyment of quality literature, and that their engagement with literature is improved when they can see themselves and their experiences reflected in a meaningful way.
In 5 years the CLPE Reflecting Realities survey has provided data and analysis which has lead to a quantifiable improvement in representation of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse characters in children's literature. Thanks to National Lottery funding, the Arts Council is pleased to continue to support the survey and CLPE whilst it works towards providing more support for publishers, teachers and wider stakeholders to effect real and lasting change."
The Reflecting Realities report evaluates minority presence across the specific text types Fiction, Picturebooks and Non-Fiction. Of the three text types reviewed, Fiction is the one that has seen the slowest and smallest incremental year on year change with 11% of Fiction books published featuring minority ethnic characters. Given that the large majority of non-fiction books for the 3-11 age range are illustrated, this disparity can perhaps be attributed to an illustrated work being both easier to identify and to ensure presence than in Fiction.
Joseph Coelho, Waterstones Children’s Laureate said ‘As a Patron of CLPE I am incredibly proud to support the annual CLPE Reflecting Realities survey and to see the very real impact it has made to representation in children's books over the past 5 years. One of my goals as Waterstones Children's Laureate, Bookmaker Like You, aims to show every child that they too can be a bookmaker - the CLPE Reflecting Realities Report supports this aim by ensuring all children can see their world meaningfully reflected in the books they read.’
To view CLPE’s Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature click here.
For books that offer a true reflection of our wide society, visit Diverse Voices - 80 Children's Books that Celebrate Difference.