It has only been four months since they launched but UK-based charity Inclusive Books for Children has achieved a great deal in a short space of time, thanks to the dedication and drive of co-founders Sarah and Marcus Satha and their 10-strong reviewing team. Head of Content, Fabia Turner, reflects on the young charity’s achievements and looks ahead to 2024.
Inclusivity runs through everything we do at Inclusive Books for Children. We are dedicated to showcasing high-quality inclusive books for young readers alongside the authors and illustrators who create them. Our endgame is simple: we want all children to have easy access to books reflecting the rich diversity of human experience. The hope is that, one day, inclusive children’s books will become mainstream.
With the current socio-economic downturn, and reading for enjoyment at a record low, we know our visionary goals are ambitious, but we hope our optimism, good intentions and commitment to promoting change are clear.
We might appear to be the new kids on the block, but most of the IBC team are not really ‘new kids’ – they are experienced reviewers who bring a wealth of book knowledge from many years working in education, publishing and library services.
Every book is rigorously checked and graded by at least two of these highly skilled reviewers who also specialise in inclusivity. They consider not only the extent of representation but also the quality of stories or information conveyed through text, illustrations and design, which means that not every book submitted makes it onto our website.
Partnering with CLPE to ensure we review the latest releases as well as backlist books, we have over 800 fiction and non-fiction titles listed on our website featuring representation that goes beyond skin colour and culture. Disability, neurodiversity, LGBTQIA identities and modern family structures across many different ethnicities are depicted, as are challenges to traditional gender stereotypes.
We are very proud of our user-friendly website, what we call our giant ‘bookshelf’ at IBC HQ. Through its design and functionality, the site makes it easy for parents to source the precise books they want for their children. Our promise is that the IBC website will always be free to use, but of course we are a charity, so donations earned through affiliate book sales are vital to support our running costs.
Along with our website we have launched the first-ever IBC Awards, recognising the outstanding contributions made by authors and illustrators to inclusive children’s literature. This year, we have concentrated on younger audiences, including a prize category not just for picture books but also for baby and toddler books and children’s fiction for ages five to nine as they don’t often get the attention they deserve. We hope the IBC Awards will encourage UK children’s publishers to continue to seek out and publish excellent new literature, for all age groups, that is naturally inclusive.
Our shortlists will be announced on 15 January, and we cannot wait to celebrate our enormously talented winners at the awards ceremony in February.
Plans for 2024
One focal point for the new year is to ensure inclusivity continues to permeate everything we do at IBC. Our team is already incredibly diverse, but we have plans to go even further, bringing as many expert perspectives as possible into our book-reviewing and decision-making processes.
We’d also like to strike a careful balance between ensuring affordability of books for parent consumers on low incomes while supporting indie booksellers (another important aspect of our mission). Achieving equilibrium here is a challenge for everyone in the book industry, not just for IBC, but we are confident we can offer palatable solutions.
We are thrilled to share that we will broaden our book offering in the early autumn, adding middle-grade reviews and booklists to our website. Books currently range in age and stage suitability from babies up to children aged nine, so it will be exciting to add texts that appeal to older or more confident readers.
The feedback we have received so far has been largely positive, and we’d love to build on this goodwill by forging stronger relationships with publishers, booksellers, library services and emerging/established authors and illustrators. We also respect the work of other literary organisations in the inclusive kidlit space, some of whom have been working for change in this area for a long time. We’d welcome opportunities to collaborate in the future to reach our collective goal.
Ultimately, we all want the same aim: for all children to see themselves and their peers reflected in the books they read. IBC provides another vehicle to help us all shout louder and effect change. And though we have exciting ideas in the pipeline, we are mindful of taking our time to ensure everything is true to our vision. We promise to share more soon!
For more information about Inclusive Books for Children, visit: inclusivebooksforchildren.org
Fabia Turner is head of content at IBC and the founder of the Jericho Prize for Children’s Writing. She is also a former primary teacher and educational book editor with a love of children’s literature.