Author Sharna Jackson: Bringing diversity into children's books | Eurasia Diary -

21 June, Friday

Author Sharna Jackson: Bringing diversity into children's books

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Author Sharna Jackson is something of a rarity.

As a black children's writer, she's already in a minority. But her debut book High-Rise Mystery, a detective story starring young black sisters and featuring a diverse cast, puts Jackson in an extra select league.

"When I was young, I kept on reading and watching but the representation wasn't there," Jackson tells BBC News. "It was hard to find role models outside popular culture.

"When I read, the default in my head was 'white'. Unless the character was black, it wouldn't be stated."

According to the 2017 research BookTrust Represents, just 5.6% of published UK children's authors and illustrators are from a black and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

And in 2018, figures from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) showed that of the 9,115 children's books published over the previous 12 months, 4% featured BAME characters.

Only 1% had a non-white character as a lead. In many cases, the stories were about social justice issues or conflict rather than mystery, magic or fun.

Farrah Serroukh, director of the CLPE study, says lack of representation is a "cross-sector systemic issue". But, she adds, "it is fundamental for a child's personal development that they see themselves reflected in the pages of the books they read and have the opportunity to experience realities beyond their own... such self-affirming experiences are invaluable in nurturing a child's reader identity".

Jackson confirms she struggled in her formative years to find anyone to associate with on the page. Now the problem is being repeated with her nine-year-old son, she says.




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