Although we are seeing a welcome increase in both the amount of children’s books that feature a range of diverse characters and the amount of children’s books accessible to a variety of readers, there is still a huge gap in the market. So it is always great to hear of organisations who are helping to build up collections of inclusive books.
Outside In World, a UK organisation which promotes children’s books from around the world, has been awarded funding for a new project called Reading the Way. The project, which starts in autumn 2014, aims to bring together a collection of international children’s books which will be selected on their ability to engage ALL children including those with additonal needs.
Outside In’s Alexandra Strick explained that the decision to focus on books which are accessible or inclusive came in response to a clearly identified area of need:
‘We believe that this is still a particularly under-supported area within the UK children’s book industry and all too often children with additional needs are effectively excluded. The needs of many young people, such as those with speech and language difficulties, learning difficulties or sensory impairments, are largely overlooked by mainstream books. Books which are ‘accessible’ might include language illustrations, pictorial symbols (like BLISS, PCS or Widget symbols), braille or tactile illustrations. By ‘inclusive’ we mean books which include a particularly positive portrayal of disabled children or adults, either through the visual images (if a picture book) or through the story.’
Widgits. An organisation called Widgit have published the first in a series of picture books containing widgit symbols alongside the text. The books are designed to appeal to children aged 3-11 with special educational needs who have learning difficulties or problems with speech and language development.
Access2Books is another organisation working to promote books for all children. They specialise in publishing dual format giant print (75pt) and Braille versions of popular children’s books. Titles include Not Now Bernard by David McKee, Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore, and The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson. The books are large format with large print text on one page and the illustration on the other with Braille at the bottom of both pages.
Barrington Stoke are a fantastic publisher who aim to break down the barriers that stop children reading. All of their books are dyslexic friendly with cream coloured pages, optimised spacing between characters and lines, and dyslexic-friendly font. They also include additonal features which aid reluctant and struggling readers such as short chapters, shorter word lengths and illustrations to aid understanding. They publish children’s fiction and non-fiction titles and have also begun publishing a range of dyslexic friendly picture books designed to support adults who want to share books with their children.
Letterbox Library is an excellent UK children’s bookseller specialising in celebrating equality and diversity. They have pulled together hundreds of inclusive children’s books from the UK and around the world and you can search their titles by a range of themes including bullying, LGBT, disability, family break-up, mixed race representations, and fostering and adoption. They also put together themed packs for schools and offer a postal approval service allowing you to look through a selection of books before choosing titles. Highly recommended.
Booktrust, an organisation which has been promoting books and reading for over 90 years, is also an excellent resource. They have put together a useful list of inclusive books for children and have further booklists focusing on specific needs such as autism, Down syndrome and deafness. The wesbite also includes relevant articles on inclusion, a blog and a comprehensive list of useful organisations.
There are also a range of excellent sources of multicultural children’s books. Trainee teachers from the University of East London have put together an excellent blog called London Picture Books. The blog contains a collection of picture books which they feel represent the diversity of London. Other recommended sources of multicultural children’s books include IBBY, Tamarind Books, Willesden Bookshop, and Poppy’s Books. Eileen Browne, author of Handa’s Surprise, has also produced an extensive list of multicultural children’s books.
And last but not least, we have a collection of picture books, fiction and non-fiction titles on the Curriculum Centre catalogue which reflect a multicultural UK.