With the world hanging in uncertainty the Publishing Industry has shown itself to adapt to the quick-paced changing world of 2020 through its transition to the online world. Just last week, the Edinburgh Napier Publishing class was given the opportunity to watch a highly popular conference online: The Bookseller Children’s Conference.
The conference brought together many successful people within the publishing industry and allowed a much wider audience to partake. Of all the interesting panels, I particularly enjoyed Katherine Rundell’s discussion of finding hope within children’s fiction; something I find even more important in the current climate.
Katherine spoke candidly about representation in children’s fiction and pointed out both the flaws and the strengths that fiction has for children. She opened with speaking about the low level of diversity in children’s fiction. Katherine rightfully quotes:
‘Only 4% of books published in one year have a character who is black, asian or minority ethnic but that 31.2% of school children are from minority ethic backgrounds.’
It is obvious that children’s fiction opens so many opportunistic doors for generations of children; however, it still has a way to go. It’s wonderful that two-thirds of children are represented in the books that they are reading, yet, it is clear that for the third of BAME children left this representation is still a work in progress.
I think that everyone reading this post will agree that it is vital that every single child sees themselves in the books that they are reading. To simply represent only a certain section of society in children’s fiction means that we as a society are failing from the go when it comes to understanding each other. Children’s fiction has the power to create a hopeful generation who question and investigate the world in order to better it. Although, to do this it is just as important to provide books to children as it is for each child to be represented within the books that they read in their lifetime. This moves me on to my second point of hope and children’s fiction, a point which Katherine also makes in her discussion. That being libraries.
Children need to be represented in books, but they also need to be able to access books. We all are aware, I’m sure, of the closure of many libraries across the UK. This is a significant problem for children from poorer backgrounds. To take away libraries will further increase the line of inequality in society. Libraries are a beacon of hope for many children. As Katherine put it:
‘If books are carriers of hope, then libraries are essentially hope hotels.’
Libraries bring so much hope to children from all walks of life. An article published in The Guardian states that 1/8 of schools across the UK do not have their own designated library space. Libraries are a solitude within a mountain of books and empathy. They are a beacon of hope in both childhood and adulthood. As Katherine put it: there’s a long fight ahead of us for our libraries.
With all this said, hope and children’s fiction is correlative and in the current climate I think it is more important now than ever that the hope captured and released through children’s fiction is repeated through as many people as possible.