I was in my teens when I first truly saw the value of inclusion. I spent an afternoon a week doing work experience in a highly inclusive primary school and saw the direct impact that this inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schooling had on ALL the children in terms of understanding and acceptance.
Having trained as a primary school teacher at Froebel College, University of Roehampton, I taught in Hounslow and Vietnam before leaving the profession to pursue a career linked to my other great passion – children’s books.
My educational experience led to a job with independent publisher Child’s Play (International) Ltd. I progressed through the company from an education and sales role to a position as Junior Editor. As part of a small team, I managed a number of projects and assisted on many others – working on both words and layout. I was highly valued for my keen eye for detail and my ability to provide a new insight on projects. Child’s Play is well known for its innovative novelty books and award-winning baby books so I have an excellent grounding in this area, as well as with traditional picture books.
My interested in inclusion only grew when we looked at how we could represent more children in the books we published.
From 2005-2008 I was on the steering group of the Scope In The Picture project, an innovative project that raised awareness and broke new ground for publishers in terms of representing disabled children incidentally in picture books.
Linked to this, a key part of my role at Child's Play was ensuring that the books that we developed truly reflected our diverse society, helping them to become one of the leading publishers in this field. I still work with them in this area as a consultant to this day.
I wanted to build on the work of the In The Picture project, as did Alexandra Strick, a fellow member of the steering group, and in 2013 we founded Inclusive Minds, an organisation to encourage and promote diverse, inclusive, accessible and equal books for children. Linked to this, I have spoken at a number of events and seminars about inclusion in children's books, including the IBBY congress in Mexico, and the Bookseller Children's Conference. I have spoken and and been involved in organising a number of seminars at London Book Fair on the subject of Inclusion, and have developed training for teachers, publishers, publishing students and authors on achieving authentic inclusion. I was an Associate Tutor for the Distance Learning Editorial Management module for MA Publishing Studies taught through Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies and in 2015 taught the campus based Children's Publishing module.
In terms of my own lived experience of diversity, I'm a solo parent to a donor-conceived child, who is autistic and likes to challenge gender stereotypes. I'm also exploring Autism and ADHD diagnoses for myself.