The need for change

The skewed landscape

The history

I first became aware of this need when working for BookTrust in the 1990's. I noticed that in the thousands of new titles being published each year, only a handful of books featured a disabled character.  I was then lucky enough to manage a Lottery-funded project working closely with young disabled people for several years, and to learn from them.  I became even more aware of the gaping holes in the landscape where disabled children were concerned.  Disabled children were growing up never seeing themselves in books, and non-disabled children also rarely coming into contact with disabled people.  Plus, those images of disability that did exist in books generally sent far from positive or accurate messages. 

I thought - imagine the difference we could make if children grew up seeing disability reflected in books as it really is - just a normal part of society.


It is not just about inclusive imagery, but also access to books.  Disabled children are often denied the right to enjoy books like their peers, simply because books are not created in formats they can access.  For example, 96% of books never make it into a format that blind or partially sighted people can read. The few books that were being produced in accessible formats such as large print, audio or braille were (and still are) often produced months, even years, after the standard print version.  Imagine having to wait years before you were able to read the next book in your favourite series, by which time all your friends have long moved on to the next big thing.  Just one of many ways in which disabled children were being short-changed by books.  


Plus, of course, the children's book world also needs to continue to adapt and evolve in relation to other aspects of diversity - gender, gender identity, culture, sexual identity, socio-economic background and family structure to name but a few.  And this needs to be authentic representation - not guesswork.

Times are changing

Here we are in 2020 and attitudes and awareness of diversity issues have thankfully moved on. Book creators are keen to enhance the diversity of books.  However there is a long, long way still to go.  And book creators often don't have the knowledge or the lived experience - they need help in getting it right. 

Working together, so writers, illustrators, publishers, other book professionals and most (importantly) children/young people, we can - and will - bring about real change.

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