Children’s books must be diverse, or kids will grow up believing white is superior



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Helen Joanne Adam, Edith Cowan University; Caroline Barratt-Pugh, Edith Cowan University; Libby Jackson-Barrett, Edith Cowan University, and Robert Stanly Somerville, Edith Cowan University

Global support for the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t only about standing up against the injustice done to George Floyd, or Indigenous Australians in custody. People are also standing up against the entrenched racism that leads to a careless approach towards the lives of people who aren’t white.

Research shows 75% of Australians hold an implicit bias against Indigenous Australians, seeing them negatively, even if this is unconscious. Children absorb this bias, which becomes entrenched due to messages in the media and in books, and continues to play out at school and the broader community.

Making sure children have access to books showing diversity is one step in breaking the cycle that leads to entrenched racism.

Children develop bias from an early age

Children develop their sense of identity and perceptions of others from a very early age – as early as three months old. Because of this, young children are particularly vulnerable to the messages they see and hear in the media and in books.

Research over many years has shown books can empower, include and validate the way children see themselves. But books can also exclude, stereotype and oppress children’s identities. Minority groups are particularly at risk of misrepresentation and stereotyping in books.

First Nations groups are commonly absent from children’s books. Excluding the viewpoints, histories and suffering of First Nations Peoples can misrepresent history, and teach kids a white-washed version of the past.




Read more:
Captain Cook ‘discovered’ Australia, and other myths from old school text books


A world of children’s books dominated by white authors, white images and white male heroes, creates a sense of white superiority. This is harmful to the worldviews and identities of all children.

Sharing stories through books

Evidence shows sharing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories helps break down stereotypes and prejudice. And this, importantly, helps empower Aboriginal children and improve their educational engagement and outcomes.

But research suggests many classrooms have books that are monocultural literature, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander books are notably absent.

There are some encouraging signs, with an increase in the publication of books by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We are also seeing bookshops and publishers reporting a rise in demand for books on race and racism.

Books can empower and validate children’s identities. But they can also make them feel inferior.
Shutterstock

This can also help adults become informed about Australia’s colonial history. Reading these books can help challenge their own unconscious biases and misunderstandings.




Read more:
Bias starts early – most books in childcare centres have white, middle-class heroes


The challenge for teachers and parents is to access suitable children’s books and share them with the children in their care. We can use these stories as a foundation for conversations about culture and community.

This can help to drive change and support reconciliation.

Other ways of sharing diverse stories

Creating Books in Communities is a pilot project run by the State Library of Western Australia that helps create books with families about their everyday experiences. These books represent the families’ culture and language.

Projects like these are another way we can recognise and extend the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Another project, On Country Learning, involves children and teachers learning through culture alongside Aboriginal elders. A preliminary review of the program shows it enriches teacher knowledge and motivates all children to learn.

Reading and listening to the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can help teachers gain important knowledge and understanding. This helps them effectively engage with and teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.




Read more:
9 tips teachers can use when talking about racism


And it helps them teach all students about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, histories and cultures.

To see real and lasting change children need everyday story books with heroes and characters that reflect their diverse backgrounds. To help this happen we can support groups such as the We Need Diverse Books Movement and LoveOZYA , which actively call for and promote diverse books for young people.

Affirmation of all children’s culture, language and identity at this pivotal time in world history is critical to the future of all our children.

Parents and teachers can source Aboriginal literature from websites such as: Magabala Books, IAD Press, Aboriginal Studies Press, Fremantle Press, UWA Publishing, BlackWords, Batchelor Institute Press.The Conversation

Helen Joanne Adam, Senior Lecturer in Literacy Education and Children’s Literature: Course Coordinator Master of Teaching (Primary), Edith Cowan University; Caroline Barratt-Pugh, Professor of Early Childhood, Edith Cowan University; Libby Jackson-Barrett, Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University, and Robert Stanly Somerville, Head of Teaching and Learning, Kurongkurl Katitjin Centre for Australian Indigenous Education and Research, Associate Professor, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

P is for Pandemic: kids’ books about coronavirus



NSW Health

Shih-Wen Sue Chen, Deakin University; Kristine Moruzi, Deakin University, and Paul Venzo, Deakin University

With remarkable speed, numerous children’s books have been published in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis, teaching children about coronavirus and encouraging them to protect themselves and others.

Children’s literature has a long history of exploring difficult topics, with original fairy tales often including gruesome imagery to teach children how to behave. Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by the wolf in a warning to young ladies to be careful of men. Cinderella’s stepsisters had their eyes pecked out by birds as punishment for wickedness.

More recently, picture books have dealt with issues including September 11, the Holocaust, environmental issues and death.

But this wave of coronavirus books is unique, being produced during a crisis rather than in its aftermath.

Many have been written and illustrated in collaboration between public health organisations, doctors and storytellers, including Hi. This is Coronavirus and The Magic Cure both produced in Australia.

These books explore practical ways young children can avoid infection and transmission, and provide strategies parents can use to help children cope with anxiety. Some books feature adult role models, but the majority feature children as heroes.

The best of these books address children not just as people who might fall ill, but as active agents in the fight against COVID-19.

Our top picks

Coronavirus: A Book for Children

Written in consultation with an infectious diseases specialist and illustrated by Axel Scheffler of The Gruffalo, this nonfiction picture book offers children information about transmission, symptoms and the possibility of a cure, reassuring readers that doctors and scientists are working on developing a vaccine.

The last few pages answer the question “what can I do to help?”

Coronavirus: A Book for Children shows a diversity of characters taking action to manage the effects of the virus. Children are told to practice good hygiene, not to disturb their parents while they are working from home and keep up with their schoolwork.

It is also hopeful: reinforcing the idea that the combination of scientific research and practical action will lead to a point when “this strange time will be over”.

My Hero is You! How kids can fight COVID-19

Written and illustrated by Helen Patuck, My Hero is You! is an initiative of a global reference group on mental health, and is a great book for parents to read with their children.

Sara, daughter of a scientist, and Ario, an orange dragon, fly around the world to teach children about the coronavirus.

Ario teaches the children when they feel afraid or unsafe, they can try to imagine a safe place in their minds.

Based on a global survey of children and adults about how they were coping with COVID-19, My Hero is You! translates the results of this comprehensive survey into a reassuring story for kids experiencing fear and anxiety. It also acknowledges the global nature of the health crisis, showing children they are not alone.

The Princess in Black and the Case of the Coronavirus

The Princess in Black is an existing series, with seven books published since 2014 and over one million copies sold. In the books, Princess Magnolia enlists children to help with a problem she cannot defeat alone: here, of course, that problem is coronavirus.

For fans of the series, Magnolia and her pals are familiar characters encouraging readers to solve the problem of coronavirus by washing their hands, staying at home, and keeping their distance.

The Princess in Black shows a deft use of humour to introduce children to complex ideas in a familiar and friendly manner.

Little heroes

Children’s books have often sought to entertain and educate children at the same time. The immediacy of these books, with their practical solutions and strategies for children to manage fears and anxieties about sickness and isolation, is a phenomenon we haven’t seen before.

With free online distribution and simple messages, these books present children with individual actions that have both personal and collective benefits.

Importantly, the heroes identified in these stories include children themselves. Their fears are acknowledged, but at the same time they are told they can fight the virus successfully.


A frequently updated list of children’s books on the pandemic is available from the New York School Library System’s COVID-19 page.The Conversation

Shih-Wen Sue Chen, Senior Lecturer in Writing and Literature, Deakin University; Kristine Moruzi, Research fellow in the School of Communication & Creative Arts, Deakin University, and Paul Venzo, , Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Free Sesame Street Ebooks


The link below is to an article that looks at Sesame Street ebooks that are currently available for free, including Kindle.

For more visit:
https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/100-sesame-street-ebooks-available-for-free

Free Audiobooks for Kids From Audible


The links below are to articles reporting on free audiobooks on offer from Audible for kids while schools are closed.

For more visit:
https://ebookfriendly.com/hundreds-audible-audiobooks-free-coronavirus-pandemic/
https://goodereader.com/blog/audiobooks/audible-offering-hundreds-of-kids-audiobooks-for-free
https://bookriot.com/2020/03/19/audible-launches-audible-stories-for-children-and-teens-while-school-is-out/

Coronavirus: five books to keep young people happy during lockdown – children’s author


George Rudy via Shutterstock

Mimi Thebo, University of Bristol

Stories can be mirrors that help young people express feelings about a given situation. They give children a vocabulary for what is happening. But, because of how fiction works in the brain, stories can also be windows. When we read fiction, we inhabit other bodies and feel the concerns of other people. This helps young people to develop empathy – but has another profound effect. Reading stories makes us feel experienced and increases resilience.

I’ve chosen some wonderful books that all function both as mirrors and windows for children as the world faces the effects of Coronavirus. They are beautifully written and/or illustrated and should fire young imaginations, while comforting the whole family.

The Red Tree

This is a beautiful picture book – sparse of text – with lush landscapes in Sean Tan’s magical style. The reader loses themselves in pages that are achingly evocative of yearning, loss and wonder in a kind of heady cocktail of intense emotion, boredom and stoicism.

For a child, there is always hope.
Amazon

Dark leaves fall in our character’s bedroom, but by the end, they have coalesced into a beautiful red tree.

There is space here for even a very young reader to express what they think is happening page by page. The art could stimulate imitation. I can also imagine making a little red tree trunk and branches and adding a leaf to it, day by day.

There is very little reading to be done, so a slightly older child could also “read” it to a younger one.

The Mousehole Cat

Antonia Barber sets her classic story on the Cornish coast. The narrative is about a cat who saves the day when her community is threatened. It is wordier than many picture books, but narrated by the cat in clear, beautifully written prose – it’s a pleasure to read aloud.

Moving story of bravery, sacrifice and companionship.
Amazon

Nicola Bayley’s illustrations are engaging and immersive – who wouldn’t like to go to the seaside right now? – and the characters easily inspire affection.

Touching on concepts of scarcity and sacrifice, this is a very empowering story for a young listener or reader. The smallest character in the story is the hero who saves everyone – by singing. It would be easy to live in this story for a while, going fishing from the laundry basket, practising storm singing, repeating some of the turns of phrase.

The illustrations are inspiring for young artists and could also be the basis of remembering visits to the seaside, pretend beach picnics or natural history lessons.

Comet in Moominland

A trip to Tove Jansson’s Moominland always makes everything better. Here, the family flee from an approaching comet, meeting many favourite characters on the way.

Full of adventures and narrow escapes.
Amazon

The much-beloved Moomins are eccentric hippo-like people, very accommodating of difference and otherness. That said, many of the characters have their little ways, and being accommodating isn’t always comfortable. The realism of the relationships gives even the silliest of Jansson’s stories the texture of real life.

Quirky line drawings are immensely endearing and the story, while exciting with elements of real fear, never feels as if it will end badly. The language is fun, with word play and characters’ attitudes and, again, the child is the hero. It’s not hard to draw a Moomin, and there are endless opportunities for drama. Year twos or threes can probably read it to themselves, with someone on hand for the tricky bits, but it’s fun enough to engage older children, and silly enough for littlies.

The Wee Free Men

Tiffany Aching comes from chalkland, where nobody has it easy, and everyone works hard. When a rift opens on her doorstep and her despised little brother is taken, she discovers she’s not ordinary, after all. Armed with a cast-iron frying pan, she takes on the full force of Fairyland.

A riotous out-loud read.
Amazon

This is a riotous out-loud read from the late Terry Pratchett, featuring a tribe of “pictsies” who speak in a Scottish accent that sounds a lot like the stand-up comic Billy Connolly. Tiffany’s gran has recently passed away – and the danger feels quite real – but we know that Tiff will get us through. She certainly does, battling forces of depression and self-doubt to do so – another young leader in a time of community danger. Even hardened teenagers might smile at the best bits and tweens will devour it whole. Children as young as six or seven can follow along.

The narrative is a role-play bonanza and there are opportunities to investigate British folklore, identities in the United Kingdom and gender roles. Illustrations in the text might inspire art and mapping the settings would be an interesting exercise. Further adventures of some of the characters could be written, and geography lessons about chalk grassland would be easy to work in.

The Book Thief

For resilient older children and teens, Markus Zusac’s story is set in a time of many lives lost – Germany during the second world war – and narrated by Death. It is gorgeously written (an international bestseller, adapted for film) and, while the subject matter is difficult, the narrative pulses with life and hope.

Navigating trauma and hard times.
Amazon

For a young person engaged with current events, questioning authority and impatient of parental efforts to shield them from the grimmer elements of our current reality, this book could be a lifeline.

Liesel Meminger is illiterate when the story begins, but takes a book that has been dropped at her brother’s graveside. As she begins to read and to leave childhood behind, she steals many more books. Love, death and the importance of even futile actions inform the story of Liesel’s coming of age and provide ways of thinking about what it means to be human.

This could be read together silently, perhaps taking chapters in turn, rationed out as a treat for discussion or not. It’s a natural accompaniment to history lessons, geography, or some online German instruction and watching the film could lead to a discussion of adaptation. But perhaps you could just leave a copy of it out for anyone who needs it to find and make their own.

Many of these titles are available electronically, but local bookshops are delivering and posting orders. After all, there’s nothing more comforting than snuggling behind the protective embrace of an open book.The Conversation

Mimi Thebo, Reader in Creative Writing, University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Children Who Own More Books Read Better


The link below is to an article that claims children who own more books read better – which is fairly obvious I suppose.

For more visit:
https://lithub.com/children-who-own-books-more-likely-to-be-good-readers-reveals-obvious-study/

Start a tradition of choosing picture books to share with children in your life



More recently, the study of reading has turned to examine the social and emotional benefits of storybook reading.
(Shutterstock)

Sandra Martin-Chang, Concordia University and Stephanie Kozak, Concordia University

It started with Frederick, by Leo Lionni — a beautifully illustrated story about the importance of the arts.

‘I am gathering words,’ Frederick the mouse tells his harried mouse community.
Penguin Random House

Or it began with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski — an exquisite storybook about a sullen carver who is transformed by the love of a little boy.

These are some of our own first favourite books. That was before we understood the benefits behind storybook reading. But we gave the books to our nieces and nephews based on our pure appreciation of the stories themselves. And thus began family traditions of carefully selecting, signing and gifting cherished books to one another.

Social and emotional benefits

For educators, the importance of storybook reading in the home is well documented. Reading to children is associated with a heap of benefits, including more expansive expressive and receptive vocabularies, better language comprehension and better early math abilities. More recently, the study of reading has turned to examine the social and emotional benefits provided by storybook reading.

Different themes explored by storybooks can develop aspects of socio-emotional understanding, because a well-written story can transport the reader into fictional worlds and let them experience emotions by proxy.

Parents who are more familiar with storybooks (presumably through reading them with their children), have children who are better at identifying and separating their own emotions and desires from the emotions and desires of others. Such social and cognitive skills are part of developing towards what psychologists call a “theory of mind” — gaining the ability to understand that other people’s thoughts and beliefs may be different from your own, and to consider why.

Books may help children develop such skills and insights because the plots often focus on social relationships between characters and contain rich language related to feelings and identity formation. Books can also encourage children to think of ways to enrich the lives of those around them, thereby enriching their own.

Of course, it’s not enough to simply own many books; it’s the frequency of shared storybook reading with the quality of time that matters. But whether books are borrowed from the local library, or part of your own collection, having access to them in your home is a good place to start.

Here are some of our favourites.


I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love by Nancy Tillman.
(Macmillan)

Books that explore themes of love and community: Porcupine’s Bad Day by Emilie Corbiere is an English- and Ojibway-langugage account of how porcupine’s friends help him move beyond his grumpy mood as he tries to sleep in the daytime — and to understand they all share the forest. Nancy Tillman’s I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love explores how intimacy and love are tied to recognition and acceptance, told through the delight of animal disguises and a woman narrator. Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper narrates the love of a boy and his grandpa against the backdrop of the moon’s ever-present mystery.


‘The Book of Mistakes,’ by Corinna Luyken.
(Dial Books)

Books that celebrate the occasional misstep in creativity: The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, and Ish or The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. The Dot is about a schoolgirl, Vashti, who goes from believing she can’t draw to a celebration of self-expression and creativity — beginning with a dot. These books would make wonderful gifts for the creative but cautious children in your lives.


‘Ada Twist, Scientist’ by Andrea Beaty.
(Abrams)

Books for young budding professionals: Andrea Beaty’s books, including Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect would make wonderful presents that showcase new worlds opening up through science and design, and that show children the road to success is often littered with road blocks that can be overcome.


‘What Do You Do With An Idea?’ by Kobi Yamada.
(Compendium)

Books that embrace challenge: What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada is an encouraging book suitable for all ages. After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat contains themes of perseverance and overcoming fears.


‘A Child of Books,’ by Oliver Jeffers.
(Candlewick Press)

Books that celebrate themselves: The Good Little Book by Kyo MacLear, and It’s a Book by Lane Smith are stories about the love for reading, and the value of a good book. These support the message that reading is a beautiful thing. A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston is a lyrical celebration of a childhood filled with books.


‘Chester,’ by Mélanie Watt.
(Kids Can Press)

Books that don’t take themselves too seriously: Chester by Mélanie Watt,
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak, Oddsockosaurus by Zanib Mian and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen all provide a shared giggle between adult and child. Books like these reinforce the value that reading is a fun and intrinsically enjoyable activity.


Above we’ve included some of our favorite titles, but there is no one perfect book. We encourage you to spend some time talking to your local bookshop staff or librarians to find titles that will resonate in your family.

The psychosocial and educational benefits from shared storybook reading do not depend on whether the books are bought or borrowed or whether they’re new or used. All you need are books with convincing characters, good conversations and a place to snuggle up and read.

[ Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter. ]The Conversation

Sandra Martin-Chang, Professor, Department of Education, Concordia University and Stephanie Kozak, PhD Candidate, Concordia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

5 reasons I always get children picture books for Christmas



Children who love being read to are more likely to find learning to read easier.
from shutterstock.com

Kym Simoncini, University of Canberra

Christmas is just around the corner. If you’re wondering what to get your child, your friends’ children, your nieces, nephews or basically any very young person in your life –  I highly recommend picture books.

Many people can remember a favourite book when they were a kid. Some of my favourites were the Berenstain Bears with Papa Bear trying, unsuccessfully, to teach his children how to ride a bike or gather honey.

Sadly, a 2011 report from the UK showed the number of young people who say they own a book is decreasing. The report also showed a clear relationship between receiving books as presents and reading ability.

Children who said they had never been given a book as a present were more likely to be reading below the expected level for their age.

Most people can remember a favourite book when they were kids.
The Berenstain Bears/Screenshot

There are lots of benefits of reading aloud to young children, including developing children’s language and print awareness. These include knowing that the squiggles on the page represent words, and that the words tell a story.

Such knowledge gives children a head start when they go on to reading at school.

1. Reading to kids increases their vocabulary

Research shows books have a greater variety of words than conversations. But it also suggests the conversations had during reading matter most.

Adults should discuss ideas in books with children, as they occur, as opposed to just reading a book from start to finish. Talking about the pictures, or what has happened, can lead to rich conversations and enhance language development.

The more words you know, the simpler it is to recognise them and comprehend the meaning of the text. Children who read more become better readers and more successful students.

It’s important to have conversations with your kids about what you’re reading.
from shutterstock.com

2. Books can increase children’s maths and science skills

Picture books show children maths and science concepts through a story, which helps kids grasp them easier.

Some books (like How Many Legs and How Big is a Million) explicitly explore concepts such as numbers. Other stories, like the Three Little Pigs, have concepts embedded in them. Children can learn about the properties of materials when adults talk about the strength of hay, sticks and bricks.

A study in the Netherlands found kindergarten children who were read picture books, and were engaged in discussions of the maths concepts in the books, increased their maths performance, compared to a control group of children who weren’t read these books.

Three Little Pigs can teach children about the properties of hay, bricks and sticks.
from shutterstock.com

Early Learning STEM Australia has created a booklist which gives parents and teachers ideas for books that contain STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) ideas. These include:

  • They All Saw a Cat, which shows the perspectives of different animals

  • Lucy in the City, where a cat loses her way home and an owl helps her

  • Dreaming Up, which contrasts children’s constructions with notable works of architecture.

3. Books are mirrors and windows

Nearly 30 years ago, children’s literature professor, Rudine Sims Bishop, wrote how books can be windows, through which we see other worlds. These windows can become sliding doors when we use our imaginations and become part of them.

Books can also be mirrors, when we see our own lives and experiences in them. In this way, they reaffirm our place in the world.

Books can help kids see into other worlds.
from shutterstock.com

Children need both types of books to understand people come from different cultures and have different ways of thinking and doing things. Books can show that children of all cultures are valued in society.

Children who never see themselves represented in books may feel marginalised. Unfortunately, the majority of books feature white children or animals, so many children only experience books as windows.

Examples of books that show the lives of Indigenous children include Big Rain Coming and Kick with My Left Foot (which is also a great book about left and right).

4. Books can counter stereotypes

Children learn gender stereotypes from a very young age. Research shows by the age of six, girls are already less likely than boys to think girls are “really, really smart” and they begin to avoid activities thought to be for “really, really smart” children.

Picture books can challenge these and other stereotypes. Reading books that portray atypical behaviours such as girls playing with trucks or with girls in traditional male roles such as being doctors, scientists or engineers, can change children’s beliefs and activities.

Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist are very popular. And Sofia Valdez, Future Prez has just been released.

Children who have more books at home end up more educated.
from shutterstock.com

The City of Monash in Melbourne has created a list of children’s picture books that promote gender equality and challenge gender stereotypes. This includes one of my favourite books, The Paperbag Princess, who saves herself from a dragon and decides not to marry the prince after he complains she is a mess.

5. Just having more books makes you more educated

A study that looked at data from 27 countries, including Australia, found children growing up in homes with many books got three years more education than children from bookless homes. This was independent of their parents’ education, occupation and class.

Adults need to model good reading habits and their enjoyment of reading. Giving children a love of reading can be the best present we ever give.The Conversation

Kym Simoncini, Associate professor Early Childhood and Primary Education, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Humour, justice, belonging, danger, and wonder: 5 story senses and the art of writing for children



Want to capture the heart and mind of a young reader? The five story senses will set you on the right path.
iam Se7en/Unsplash, CC BY

Sean Williams, Flinders University

At the heart of every adult writer lies a novel they adored as a child. No wonder then so many try to write for kids themselves. So why do they often fail?

Perhaps it’s because, on the whole, adults are taught to write for adults, utilising the full power of the five regular senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell – to evoke meaning in even the most trivial of everyday events.

This approach is less successful with younger readers, for one very simple reason: there are five other senses that speak more potently to them.

Consciously or unconsciously, successful writers use these other senses to hook young readers (and open their parents’ wallets) in ways that seem almost magical.

It’s not magical at all, though.

Here are the five story senses guaranteed to stir a child’s literary heart.

1. Humour

Everyone with kids in their lives knows the horror of a joke compendium: the same old gags we learned in childhood, repeated over and over, quickly lose appeal.

The only thing worse would be forcing kids to stop telling them.

Humour is the key to anyone’s heart.
Ben White/Unsplash, CC BY

It is easy to forget jokes are hilarious the first time around, and funny doesn’t mean trivial. Humourist Terry Pratchett understood a reader can learn just as much from a book that provokes a laugh as from one that doesn’t – and he was the bestselling UK author until J K Rowling came along.

Make a kid laugh and they’ll be a fan forever.

2. Justice

People develop a sense of fairness at a very early age, some studies suggesting it kicks in as early as 12 months. Who doesn’t love seeing justice done? For this reason, crime fiction is one of the biggest genres in the world – and kids are no different to adult readers.




Read more:
Young morals: can infants tell right from wrong?


Few people would seriously suggest a sense of justice should be drummed out of children, but it can definitely be quashed when parental authority is under assault. Kids therefore are constantly on the pointy end of injustice, or feel they are.

This is why Rowling takes Harry back to the despicable Dursleys at the end of every book. Exploiting the sense of justice ensures her readers never lose interest.

3. Belonging

The one genre bigger than crime is romance.

While not all kids will be into romantic love (The Princess Bride notwithstanding), they will have a keen sense of belonging. They have friends, family and pets in their lives, and stories engaging this sense helps them navigate these relationships, particularly when loss or denial is involved.

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer remains a classic because, beneath everything else, it is a story about a young boy finding his place in the world, and in people’s hearts.

4. Danger

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer also contains scenes of terrible peril, as does Doctor Who. Children love to be scared by fictional stories because in life, alas, many find themselves in very real peril. Fiction gives kids a safe way to activate their sense of danger, and maybe learn a life-saving strategy or two, as well.

Fiction is a safe way for children to explore danger.
Anuja Mary Tilj/Unsplash, CC BY

The sense of danger is so fundamental to our psyche that it might actually be hardwired into us: the Moro, or “startle”, reflex is innate in healthy newborns.

There are limits, of course, but no one ever ever lost a young audience by trying to push them. (Parents are a different matter.)

5. Wonder

Everyone will have some of these senses, but some people won’t have all of them. This sense, my personal favourite, is very hard to explain to someone who doesn’t possess it. It is the engine that drives fantasy and science fiction. When something makes a reader go “wow”, their sense of wonder has been engaged.

Kids understand this sense very well, because everything to them is big and new: just note how many synonyms they have for “awesome”. While it too may be drummed out of young people as they age, it can be revived under particular circumstances. Reading JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has been one for many avid readers.

It is easy to forget The Hobbit predated this work, and, although no less awe-some, it was originally created for children.

These senses are just the start

Hefty doses of humour, justice, belonging, danger, and wonder will go some way towards compensating for deficiencies in other aspects of the writing craft. Children, and many adults, will often choose a good story badly written over a well-made dud.

This formula will also work for other media. Take Star Wars and Avengers movies, for example: both rich in the five story senses, and both part of the Disney stable, home to many other examples.

Any author wanting to pen a bestseller could do worse than start here. As always, though, there is no substitute for hard work – and luck.The Conversation

Sean Williams, Lecturer, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

British children’s books are still too white – responsibility to change them is on all involved



Only 7% of children’s books published in 2018 featured a character of colour.
Shutterstock

Karen Sands-OConnor, Newcastle University

Cuddling up in a big chair with a good book, either with a familiar adult reading to you or starting the first chapter of a book on your own is a fundamental part of childhood – emotionally as well as intellectually. Reading about people who are like yourself affects both your self-image and the likelihood you will enjoy reading. Becoming a habitual reader, in turn, affects your life options. Reading about people different from yourself also encourages empathy and cultural understanding.

But if the world of children’s books doesn’t include people who look like you, it is difficult to feel welcomed into reading, as the writer Darren Chetty, among others, has pointed out. And recent research suggests that child readers, especially, but not exclusively, readers of colour, are being seriously shortchanged.

Pigeonholed or sidelined

There simply aren’t enough authors and illustrators from diverse backgrounds being published, as academic Melanie Ramdarshan Bold pointed out in the 2019 Book Trust report on representation of people of colour among children’s book authors and illustrators. In fact, between 2007 and 2017, fewer than 2% of children’s book creators were British people of colour.

Authors of colour often feel isolated within the publishing industry. They are frequently encouraged to focus on racism and similar problem narratives, a recent report from Arts Council England (ACE) found. They do not have the freedom (as many white British authors do) to write across the broad spectrum of children’s literature genres if they want to be published.

While about a third of school-age children come from a minority ethnic background, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education found that only 7% of children’s books published in Britain in 2018 had a Black, Asian or minority ethnic character. With so few diverse children’s books being published, these books are deeply important.

When characters of colour appear in children’s books, they are rarely the protagonist with the agency to effect change. Recent books sometimes still depict characters of colour as “sidekicks” who support and affirm the white main character. Other times, the “diversity” in a book appears in the background only.

Characters are defined by their colour, which makes them irreconcilably “other”. Descriptive words of character features compare them to food or animals. Sometimes characters appear early on in a narrative, only to quickly disappear in favour of a refocus on the white character. These techniques can dehumanise people of colour.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presents a Ted Talk on the danger of the single story, 2009.

Children’s nonfiction, including history and science, either ignores contributions of people of colour to British society or pigeonholes particular ethnic groups into certain spaces only – such as the history of British slavery (and very specifically not the history of Afro-Caribbean uprisings against British slavery).

In a single children’s book, this “sidelining” of people of colour may not matter. However, when it is the enduring norm, as Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie stressed in her 2009 Ted talk on the danger of a single story, it situates readers of colour on the sidelines, too. This affects the reader’s perception of who matters in books.

Working together for representation

While it would be easy to suggest that the problem lies with the British publishing industry alone, this is too simplistic. All people involved with children’s books need to participate in changing the narrative so that the books being published better represent the population and encourage all children to become readers, according to the ACE report.

This can be done in a variety of ways, and involves committed effort. Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, began dedicating some of its collecting efforts to culturally diverse children’s literature in 2015. This has resulted in the acquisition of materials relating to children’s books by the Guyanese-born British poets John Agard and Grace Nichols in 2019. The acquisition of diverse materials by a national museum is one way of indicating the importance of this material to Britain and to British children’s literature.

Another way of highlighting the critical importance of including all children in children’s books is through awards. The longest-running children’s book prizes, the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal, have never been awarded to a British author of colour. Following the commissioning of a diversity review of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) revised the judging criteria for the annual prizes. These new guidelines ask judges to consider representation within books as they are making selections. Other children’s book prizes, including the Little Rebels prize, focus on children’s literature that challenges the status quo in areas such as diversity.

These efforts, large and small, bring attention to children’s books with characters of colour that might otherwise slip under the book-buying public’s radar. And getting librarians, educators and parents, no matter what their ethnic, racial or cultural background, to buy books is critical.

Publishing is a market-driven industry. If books aren’t selling, publishers can make the case that there is no audience and therefore they do not need to publish more books with characters of colour. All children need to feel welcome in the book world, and all children need to understand the diversity of British society now and throughout history.The Conversation

Karen Sands-OConnor, British Academy Global Professor, Newcastle University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.