World Book Day
Date: 05 Mar 2020
Author: Fen Coles (Dr.)
Role: Co-Director Letterbox Library.
On World Book Day, what better time to celebrate children’s books which empower all children to be readers by giving them books in which they can truly see themselves? So that, alongside enjoying the wild things and the hungry caterpillars and the gruffalos, children also get to see characters who look like them searching out buried treasure, learning Hogwarty wizard spells and hunting for bears in snowstorms…!
Inclusive books, or what we call Mirror Books, are just that: books which make us all feel welcome and like we ‘belong’, whatever our ethnicity, our faith, our gender, our abilities, the type of family we’re being raised in. But, the very best inclusive books are also, of course, fabulous stories, rich in character and plot.
Representation in children’s books really does matter. Last year, the Centre for Literature in Primary Education did a first-of-its-kind piece of research into representation in UK children’s books and, they concluded, “If in their formative years, children do not see their realities reflected in the world around them or only see problematic representations mirrored back at them, the impact can be tremendously damaging.” (‘Reflecting Realities’, Centre for Literature in Primary Education 2018). Included in the list of ‘damages’ is that many children are put off books and reading altogether. Mirror Books build a child’s sense of self and identity and they can also build self-esteem and confidence in a reader. If children never have Mirror Books, then we run the risk of them feeling as if books are not for them, that the world of books has nothing to do with them.
Letterbox Library is a 36-year-old, not-for-profit, children’s booksellers specialising in children’s books which celebrate equality and diversity. Uniquely - and unlike ‘traditional’ bookshops - all of our books are pre-selected by a team of highly skilled, book-loving teachers, librarians, parents and young reviewers (our review team rejects three quarters of the books publishers send us!) Like many educators and parents and carers, we have known for a long time that if you give children lots of choices in the sorts of books they have access to, the more likely they are to be interested in reading. And, providing inclusive story books is an important part of that - it is, quite simply, about giving children lots of choices in the characters they engage with.
Bright Horizons has a long and rich history of promoting literacy and a love of reading amongst parents and children in their nurseries. Their many and varied reading programmes are all about sharing the joy of books through the careful selection of books to suit every level of reader and every kind of interest. By partnering with us, Letterbox Library, we’ve been able to keep the very busy staff at Bright Horizons HQ up to date with the best in recently published children’s book and we’ve been able to share with them our own reviewers’ recommendations for stories which celebrate all of our children’s lives and identities. From wordless boardbooks to first chapter books, from stories set here in UK woodlands and cities to those introducing less familiar landscapes - abroad and in faraway mythical lands, from books with sweet animal characters - grumpy bears and snappy crocodiles - to books where children will happily point and say ‘look! they look just like me!’ There really is something for everyone in Bright Horizon’s book selections.
Happy World Book Day, everyone!