In the third edition of Books for Keeps ’s A Multicultural Guide to Children’s Books which was published in 1999 (and has long been out of print), I noted that while there had been an increase in the number of titles being published which reflected the multicultural society, there was little notable new fiction that reflected multi-racial Britain although there were more novels with transnational narratives. So far as non-fiction was concerned, the history of the black presence in Britain continued to be insufficiently covered.
Now research conducted by the Penguin Group into the reading habits of children and parents from black, Asian and Caribbean communities in the UK reveals that not much has changed* – positive black and Asian role models and books reflecting the history and cultures of minority communities are still hard to find. Parents are obliged to resort to specialist bookshops and suppliers. Early years books are particularly difficult to find and respondents also noted that illustrations featuring non-white children are often ‘insultingly poor’.
The 2001 Census shows that, on average, the UK’s minority ethnic groups are much younger than the white population. The challenge that this trend presents to publishers to meet the reading needs of these culturally diverse young people is one of the themes that was addressed at the Diversity Matters: Changing Cultural Perspectives in Children’s Publishing conference in June. In the September issue of BfK we will be publishing the text of the distinguished keynote speaker, Malorie Blackman, who is the UK’s top selling black British writer for children and young adults. Journalist and BfK reviewer, Shereen Pandit, will report on the major themes of the conference.
Return Ticket to Newcastle: the collaborative work of Janet and Allan Ahlberg
In this issue of BfK we have great pleasure in publishing Brian Alderson’s major assessment and comprehensive bibliography of the work of Janet and Allan Ahlberg to complement the current exhibition at Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle. Brian Alderson’s unique combination of scholarship, accessibility and wit is well known to readers of his ‘Classics in Short’ column and this latest consummate summary of the work of a leading writer/illustrator duo is definitely worth five stars.
* See Books for All , a supplement published by the Bookseller in May 2006.