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Diverse Voices - 80 Children's Books that Celebrate Difference

By Charlotte Carus on 8th July 2020

Our earliest perceptions of the world and its cultures are shaped by the books we read and it is essential that children see a true reflection of our society in the literature recommended and available to them. An absence of an inclusive range of role models or characters in our books risks detering children from minority backgrounds from the joy and enrichment that a love of reading can bring. 

Reflecting Realities, by CLPE, was the first UK study to look at diversity in children's literature, looking at published work from 2017 and 2018 and analysing the number of black or ethnic minority characters featured. The 2017 survey, funded by the Arts Council, concluded that only 1% of children's books have a main character from an ethnic minority and only 4% featured any characters from ethnic minorities at all. 10% of the books that did feature characters from an ethnic minority contained 'social justice' issues, including immigration, bullying and racism. And only one children’s book published in 2017 was defined as comedy.

There was a small improvement in 2018 as the number of books with a main protagoinst from an ethnic minority rose to 4% but it is clear there is a long way to go until children's literature reflects the reality of the society in the UK. At the time of the last census in 2011, almost a decade ago, 13% of the UK population (equivalent to about 8.1 million people) identified themselves as Black, Asian or from another Ethnic Minority. 

Albeit not as many as any of us would like, we do have some brilliant authors, illustrators and relevant literature to recommend enabling all children to find themselves reflected in books. We have curated an exciting and diverse list of books to help build understanding, empathy and tolerance of our different backgrounds and that also entertain and celebrate our rich, shared cultural heritage.

The books in our selection include a diverse cast, some actively teach about diversity and inclusion and others celebrate role models and historical figures in non-fiction titles. Many of the novels include diverse families without actively teaching about diversity and are great additions to every child's library. Scroll down for a selection of books that celebrate difference, suitable for toddlers to teens, catalogued in age order. 

We will continuously update this category as we read and review new, relevant publications. 

Long Way Down

Long Way Down

13+ readers YA readers

Author: Jason Reynolds Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2018

Winner of UKLA Shortlist Book Awards 2019 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Will is only fifteen but he’s experienced more violence and loss than most people might in an entire lifetime. His big brother Shawn was recently shot dead, right in front of him, but as “everybody knows”, “gunshots make everybody/deaf and blind especially/when they make somebody/dead”. While his mom mourns, “sobbing into her palms”, Will knows what he has to do. He must follow the three rules: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. Armed with Shawn’s gun, Will heads down six floors in an elevator on his revenge mission, thinking he knows exactly who he’s going after. When the “spooky ass” elevator stops at each floor and ghosts from the past step into the “vertical coffin”, doubts set in as Will is presented with more facts and finally comes face to face with some big choices (do some rules need to be broken? Does he want out of the cycle?), and more besides. The writing is crisp, clever and dazzlingly compact, with a whole family history and personally-charged societal issues conveyed with powerful precision. The line and page breaks are perfectly constructed, words and phrases frequently have multiple meanings, and Chris Priestley’s raw and resonant illustrations are hauntingly powerful.

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