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Why aren't we seeing more inclusive books published when we know how much they are needed?

I believe these are the most common reasons:

  • A belief that only certain books can be inclusive.

  • A belief that inclusive books are issue books.

  • A fear about getting it wrong.

So let's take a closer look:

A belief that only certain books can be inclusive.

You know that inclusion is important but you find yourself looking through your forthcoming titles asking yourself which of these you might be able to make inclusive.

Where you might be able to make the characters more diverse. And straight away some of the books will go into the 'no' pile. Because you don't think it's possible to make them inclusive. Or you don't think those are the right books to 'add diversity' into.

But what if you approached it differently? What if you instead of asking 'if' you asked 'how'? What if you trusted that you could make any of the books on your list inclusive, it was just a case of working out how to do it? And making all of them inclusive.

Imagine how the picture book landscape would be transformed.

A belief that inclusive books are issue books.

We've moved on a lot in our perceptions of inclusive books in the past few years, but for many people I speak to there's often an unconscious belief that an inclusive book has to have a 'message' about diversity. We're getting past the assumption that inclusive books have to be 'issue' books, books about difference, but there's still a tendency to focus on the challenges someone has to overcome – sometimes just to live their life and sometimes to be accepted.

But the best inclusive books don't focus on difference. The best inclusive books feature characters who just happen to... be disabled, Black, have same-sex parents... but where this is just one part of who they are. Not the focus, and not presented as the most important thing (or overtly giving the message that this is the most important thing) about them. With this in mind, any book can be inclusive (so this links to the point above). Any character can be 'diverse'.

Inclusive books are just great stories that happen to have a diverse cast of (authentically represented) characters.

A fear about getting it wrong

You want to make your books more inclusive but... but what if you get it wrong?

I get it. It's a minefield. And it's SO important to get representation right that the fear can put you off even trying. Or going beyond sticking a wheelchair user in a books.

Yes, it's easy to get it wrong, but with support it's possible to get it right and the impact of doing so is huge. It could change the children's book landscape so the majority of books are incidentally inclusive. Imagine what a difference that would make to children. To society. To the future.

But how do you do it? Speak to real people with lived experience. Learn about the different facets of diversity and research rather than assume. Learn about how to approach inclusion.

There are foundations needed to create authentically inclusive books, and knowing these can make all the difference not only to the books you publish, but to the confidence of your team and their creativity.

So, what's stopping you? If it's not one of the reasons above, I'd love to hear what it is.

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