Marcus Rashford’s book club couldn’t come at a better time – children’s reading is at a 15-year low



It is important that children sees themselves in the books that read.
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Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, UCL

England international footballer and child poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford has announced that he is launching a book club. The initiative will distribute books to children, particularly those from vulnerable and underprivileged backgrounds, in order to promote reading and literacy.

Studies have shown us how vital reading – specifically reading for pleasure – is for academic and economic success, as well as for mental health (among other things). Reading, according to the National Literary Trust, encourages children (particularly girls) to dream about the future.

But the number of children reading every day for pleasure is at its lowest since the National Literacy Trust started monitoring it in 2005. In 2019, only 26% of young people (under 18) read every day. Although engagement with books has risen during lockdown, some children have faced greater barriers due to library closures, amongst other things.

Former children’s laureate Michael Rosen has said these findings should act as “a wake-up call for the government”. And we already know that Rashford can cause a stir at Westminster. So his intervention could become a much-needed force for change.

Rashford says that reading and books are cool. Children who own books are more than twice as likely to agree that reading is cool than those who don’t. But what if you don’t have access to books, like 384,000 children and young people (mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds) in the UK? And, more specifically, what if you don’t have access to books that you can see yourself in?

My own research, along with that of the Reflecting Realities project by the
Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, has also demonstrated how woefully underrepresented people of colour are in children’s books and children’s authorship. A few weeks ago, my new BookTrust Represents report was published in conjunction with the new Centre For Literacy In Primary Education (CLPE) report, which tracks the number of children’s books by and about people of colour published in the UK.




Read more:
Five books to read to children that adults will enjoy


Both reports show progress over the past three years (2017-2019): the number of protagonists of colour increased fivefold, from 1% (2017) to 5% (2019), while the number of authors of colour increased from 5.58% to 8.68%.

It is important to stress that these numbers are still very low, particularly when we consider that 33.5% of school-age children in the UK are from ethnic minority backgrounds. There is a long way to go before representation in children’s books and publishing authentically mirror UK society. And it will take collective action to break down the systemic barriers that cause under- (and mis-) representation.

Reaching a wider audience

This is why initiatives like Rashford’s book club are very welcome. In light of my research, I support the book club’s focus on quality inclusive youth literature: books that are authentically representative of the society that we live in. “No matter where you grow up”, Rashford wrote in a statement, “talent should be recognised and championed”.

Books provide insight into a variety of different lives and cultures. They have an important role in holding up a mirror to the world or offering a window into another. What they reflect impacts how young readers see themselves and the world around them. Inclusive books are important for children of all ethnicities and from all socio-economic backgrounds.

This new book club, with Rashford at the helm, will bring inclusive books into the consciousness of a much wider audience. Rashford has already made strides in tackling inequality in the UK and this initiative will help bridge the cultural and educational divide.

Rashford will also co-author several books, in partnership with MacMillan Children’s Books, beginning with You Are A Champion: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice And Be the Best You Can Be, based on Rashford’s life (May 2021). Two books, aimed at children over six, will follow in 2022. This age group is significant because it covers a critical period in academic development where there is often a decline in children reading for pleasure.

Rashford can now add author and cultural gatekeeper to his list of accolades, and, by centring himself as such, will be a role model to aspiring writers and publishers – something my previous BookTrust Represents report highlighted as an enabler for young people of colour to join the industry.

Don’t forget about existing authors, books, and publishers

While this intervention by Rashford is exciting, it’s important to acknowledge the activists, authors, publishers, and booksellers that have been supporting inclusive youth literature for decades. Bookshops and supermarket bookshelves may be dominated by bestselling and celebrity books, but other books, with smaller marketing budgets abound. Here are five of my favourite books for young people (published in 2020), by British authors of colour, to tide you over until Rashford’s book club begins next year:

  1. The Infinite by Patience Agbabi: A time-travelling mystery and adventure by a much-celebrated poet.

  2. When Secrets Set Sail by Sita Bramachari: Another magical book, on a hidden part of Indian history, by this stalwart author.

  3. The Girl Who Became a Tree: A Story Told in Poems by Joseph Coelho: Ancient legends and modern-day grief merge in this book in verse.

  4. Boy, Everywhere by A M Dassu: A beautifully written debut about the plight of Syrian refugees.

  5. When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten: Another dreamy debut about friendship, loss, and small-town life.The Conversation

Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, Associate Professor of Publishing and Book Cultures, UCL

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

One quarter of Australian 11-12 year olds don’t have the literacy and numeracy skills they need



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Sergio Macklin, Victoria University and Sarah Pilcher, Victoria University

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds, very remote areas, and Indigenous Australians are up to two times more likely to start school developmentally vulnerable than the national average.

In 2018, 21.7% of Australian five year olds (70,308 children) were not developmentally ready when they started school. And in Year 7, nearly 25% of students (72,419) didn’t have the required numeracy and literacy skills.

Our report, Educational Opportunity in Australia 2020, is the first to examine Australia’s performance against the goals set out in the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Declaration, a national statement agreed to by Australian education ministers in 2019.

The statement aims for a quality education system for all young people, that supports them to be creative and confident individuals, successful learners and active and informed members of the community.

But our report finds students’ location and family circumstances continue to play a strong role in determining outcomes from school entry to adulthood.

While this crisis in educational inequality isn’t new, it’s likely to get a lot worse, as COVID-19 increases levels of student vulnerability and remote learning widens gaps in achievement.

Disadvantaged children missing out as school progresses

The Alice Springs declaration sets two ambitious goals:

  • the Australian education system promotes excellence and equity. In part, this is about ensuring all young Australians have access to high-quality education, inclusive and free from any form of discrimination

  • all young Australians become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community. This includes all children having a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, cultural, spiritual and physical well-being.

The declaration was signed last year, and builds on previous ones signed in Hobart, Adelaide and Melbourne over three decades. It recognises the role education plays in preparing young people to contribute meaningfully to social, economic and cultural life.




Read more:
The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians: what it is and why it needs updating


Our report uses the best available data to paint a comprehensive picture of Australia’s performance against the above important goals.

It shows the gap in academic learning as well as other key areas, such as creativity and confidence, is clear from school entry and usually grows over time.

Analysis in our report tracked students’ learning from when they started school in 2009 to when they were in Year 5 in 2014. It showed that in literacy and numeracy for instance, the gap between the proportion of children from the most disadvantaged and advantaged families meeting relevant standards grew from 20.6 percentage points at school entry to 27.2 percentage points in Year 5.



The report also shows too many students in the senior years of school are not developing key skills. In 2018, 27.8% of 15 year olds (88,314) didn’t meet or exceed the international benchmark standards in maths, reading and science.

While some students receive the support they need to catch up to their peers, many don’t.

A lot of young people are also not developing the qualities needed to confidently adapt to challenges in adulthood and contribute to their communities.

The report shows that in 2017, 28.1% (110,410) of 23 year olds were not confident in themselves or the future and 29.9% were not adaptable to change and open to new ideas. It shows 38.1% (145,056) of 23 year olds were not actively engaged in their community and 33.2% were not keeping informed about current affairs.

Additionally, many young Australians are not being well prepared and supported to find and secure meaningful employment. Overall, according to the 2016 census, nearly 30% of 24 year olds (112,695) weren’t in full-time education, training or work.

Around half of all 24 year old Indigenous Australians, and one in three of the most disadvantaged Australians, were not engaged in any work or education, compared to 15% nationally.



This failure to address educational inequality reproduces and amplifies existing poverty across generations. It saps productivity, undermines social cohesion and costs governments and communities billions of dollars.

On an individual level, it hampers young people’s search for secure employment and is connected to poorer health and lower quality of life.

What should we do?

There are no quick ways to fix educational inequality, but there are several key improvements that will make a difference.

Closing gaps in participation and lifting the quality of early childhood education services — particularly in disadvantaged communities where services tend to be lower quality — should be one of our highest priorities. Early childhood education is critical to giving every child the best possible start. Evidence shows preschool raises children’s chances of being developmentally ready for school in key areas by around 12 percentage points.




Read more:
Preschool benefits all children, but not all children get it. Here’s what the government can do about that


Despite efforts through the Gonski reforms, there is still significant room to improve how Australia targets funding and support to schools with the highest level of need. We need to address the imbalance in resources between advantaged and disadvantaged Australian schools, which is the worst in the OECD.

This is not just about money, but building strong leadership and teaching capability in every school. High quality teaching is proven to be critical to improving student outcomes. We also need to support high quality use of data and assessment to tailor teaching to students’ needs, provide feedback and measure progress.




Read more:
How to get quality teachers in disadvantaged schools – and keep them there


Government projections show 90% of employment growth in the next four years will require education beyond school. This means we must prepare young people for an economy requiring higher levels of skill than ever. We need to rethink existing models of tertiary education to make it accessible to all students.

Addressing educational inequality is as much about what happens outside the classroom as inside. Nurturing every child’s development and well-being is best achieved through a partnership between schools, families, communities and other support services.

Australia cannot afford education systems that fail so many students. That’s not just in economic terms – because the cost of lost opportunity is even greater down the track – but also in human terms. We know the social and health costs of disengaging in education are significant.The Conversation

Sergio Macklin, Deputy Lead of Education Policy, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University and Sarah Pilcher, Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University

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

2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Winners


The link below is to an article reporting on the winners of the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2020/08/13/155169/nz-book-awards-for-children-and-young-adults-2020-winners-announced/

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.
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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 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/