Published today, BookTrust’s Represents Interim Research and CLPE Reflecting Realities Survey 2020 reveal some positive progress to representation of characters of colour in children’s books and the number of authors and illustrators of colour published in the UK, but demonstrate that there is still a long way to go until children’s books and publishing mirror UK society.
BookTrust found a 3% growth in the number of authors and illustrators of colour published in the UK in the last two years. CLPE’s survey found that 7% of the children’s books published in the UK over the last 3 years feature characters of colour.
The organisations are calling on the publishing industry and those who work with children’s books to improve the representation of characters in children’s books and of the authors and illustrators responsible for them.
More findings from BookTrust’s Represents Interim Research and CLPE’s Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature:
- The number of children’s books published in the UK over the last three years (2017-19) featuring characters from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background has increased to 10% in 2019, rising from 4% in 2017, 7% in 2018 to 10% in 2019, according to CLPE.
- CLPE’s research shows that characters from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background remain significantly under-represented in comparison to the UK primary school population where 33.5% of children are from a minority ethnic background.
- The number of authors and illustrators of colour published in the UK in the last three years has grown to over 8%, an increase of 3%, rising from less than 6% in 2017.
- According to BookTrust’s findings, the number of British debut creators of colour has increased from 12 in 2017 to 24 in 2019, but nearly half of these are self-published or published by a hybrid publisher.
To view CLPE’s Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature click here.
To view BookTrust Represents report Representation of people of colour among children’s book creators in the UK click here.
The CLPE report, which identifies and evaluates representation within picture books, fiction and non-fiction for ages 3–11, provides a benchmark to track and understand progress and a toolkit to support both producers and consumers of children’s literature to be more critically reflective in the move towards a more inclusive future.
BookTrust Represents has two clear aims; to increase the number of published creators of colour of children’s books and for children to have access to and to read more books by creators of colour. The latest findings from BookTrust’s interim results show that whilst there has been an increase, there is still a long way to go.
Both reports have made a significant contribution to the wider conversation about representation in children’s books and publishing, by ensuring consistent evaluation and supporting publishers to maintain momentum. However, the figures from each update illustrate the significant extent of under-representation across the board in children’s publishing and literature and the challenge that remains for the wider industry.
Jill Coleman, director of children’s books at BookTrust said, ‘Books play an important role in shaping children’s lives : these stories and characters will affect how they see themselves and the world around them, their motivation to read, and their aspirations to become authors and illustrators of the future. We are pleased to see that there has been slow and steady progress in the representation of authors and illustrators of colour since 2017: but we are ambitious to achieve more. We have now revised our targets and want to challenge ourselves and the publishing industry to increase the number of creators of colour in the UK to 13% by 2022.’
CEO of CLPE Louise Johns-Shepherd welcomed the findings but cautioned against complacency said, ‘We began this work in 2017 and we know that since the publication of the first statistics work has been done across the charity, arts and publishing sectors to put in place a range of measures designed to institute real change. This change will take time because we also know that the structures and systems in place are entrenched and societal. Whilst the third year of data shows a continued increase from the first and second year of this work, we believe that there is still much to be done.’
Sarah Crown, Director of Literature, Arts Council England described the research carried out by CLPE and BookTrust’s as crucial in helping to address historic imbalances and lack of opportunities.
In 2021, BookTrust and CLPE will announce a new collaboration to reach more children in schools. As part of this, both organisations are calling on publishers and other partners to work with them to help redress the balance and make long overdue radical changes to ensure that children across the UK can see themselves and their world reflected in the books and authors they read.