‘Reflecting Realities’ is the name of a powerful piece of research conducted by the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) which focussed on extent and quality of ethnic representation and diversity within children’s literature. Their third report (published in November 2020) found that only 7% of children’s literature published over the past three years featured characters of colour. This is a significant under-representation when 33.5% of the U.K.’s school population are from a minority background.
A lot of schools have been promoted to review their own book stock and consider whether it represents not only the population of their school, but of the wider country. It is so important that children are able to access books which not only reflect themselves and their own lives, but also allow them to see people and explore cultures different to their own. It is only through doing this that we can help build accepting, empathic children who are ready to be global citizens.
I’ve been asked by lots of people for suggestions for books to help update and expand their school’s book stock. Here are some of the most recent titles I’ve been sent for pre-schoolers to Lower Key Stage 2:
‘This book addresses – honestly, yet hopefully – the experiences Black children face growing up with systemic racism, as well as providing hope for the future, delivering a powerful message to a new generation of dreamers. It’s a message that is both urgent and timeless – and offers a rich and rewarding reading experience for every child.
To mirror the rich variety of the Black diaspora, this book showcases artwork from Dapo and 18 incredible Black illustrators in one beautiful, powerful, and cohesive reading experience.’
Adeola said he wrote this powerful book as letter to his past self and to his future child to empower them to believe in themselves and their dreams. It contains positive affirmations that will boost all readers, regardless of their skin colour. The varied illustrations by some exciting Black artists help guide the reader through some of the injustices their may experience, but ends on a wonderfully uplifting note. A fantastic gift for new parents or a young child to treasure. 3+
‘Baby Club is such fun! Zeki and his friends sing rhymes and songs and do all the actions they clap, stretch, shake, wiggle and zoom to the moon! And at the end, there’s time for a story and making new friends.’
I love the ‘Zeki’ series! Each title explores a concept or day-to-day event which is totally relevant to a toddler’s everyday life. They all contain simple text and introduce key vocabulary, as well as having vibrant illustrations. Full of warmth, diverse characters and fun – this series should be in every toddler’s book box or play school. 2+
‘A rhythmic, whimsically illustrated celebration of Black and brown babies and the joy, tender moments, and boundless love shared between children and their caregivers, from New York Times bestselling and award-winning duo Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney.
Brown baby, born bright.
Greet the world. Spread your light.
Sparkling eyes blink hello.
Bright brown baby, you will GO!’
This would be an absolutely perfect gift for a new parent. I love that it encourages carers to snuggle up with their little ones and bond over a story – key for language development and those gorgeous baby smiles.
It features five poems about the joy of watching a new life take shape – they’re just begging to be read aloud and shared. I also liked the inclusion of aspirational quotes and affirmations, along with suggestions of activities to do or things to think about as you read.
‘When Lulu reads Mary, Mary Quite Contrary in a book of garden poems, she wants to grow some flowers herself. Being Lulu, she has to do some research first. She gets gardening books, chooses the best flowers to grow, buys seeds and plants them. Then she has to wait…While she is waiting she makes a flower book, collects silver bells, beads and shells to decorate the garden like the rhyme and even makes a ‘Mary Mary’ doll! When her flowers have grown, she bakes some cupcakes and invites her friends to see it. Whew!’
Everything Lulu does is done with joy and enthusiasm of any young child. She just completely throws herself into whatever she’s doing! I love how a whole gardening project is born out of Lulu’s life for a nursery rhyme and a visit to the library. Lulu Loves Flowers is a great choice for encouraging children to get outside with their family and friends and enjoy nature. 2+
‘Here is a story that everyone should know.
It’s the tale of a princess named Shiloh.
She lived in a kingdom, not far from yours,
in a grand house with a swimming pool and fourteen floors.
I know that sounds too big but here’s the thing:
her mother and father were the Queen and King.
Being a princess is a tough job for someone so small.
It’s even harder when you have a problem you can’t solve at all.
You see, every princess in the kingdom could sing.
Yet Shiloh’s voice could do no such thing . . .’
This thoroughly modern fairytale is all about finding your niche and embracing your talents. Princess Shiloh has to learn not to constantly compare herself to her sisters and their beautiful singing voices. Shiloh can spit rhymes and it’s her turn to shine! Gorgeous and empowering for readers aged 3+
‘Inspired by an Ethiopian folk tale, Gloria’s Porridge shows young children how one act can cause a chain reaction and affect other people’s lives.
When Cat wanted some of Gloria’s porridge, he ignored her saying no and ate it all. Gloria then scares Cat who tickles the donkey, who interrupts the bees who then frighten the hen. It is up to the fox then to show the others the importance of not letting this setback slow them down.’
This story is packed with energy and action, so would be perfect to bring to life with props and movement for young children. The illustrations really pop and were inspired by illustrator Toby Newsome’s South African surroundings. It is a very gentle introduction to how every action has a consequence and how we can always find solutions to our problems.
‘In Nikhil and Jay’s family, there’s always fun and mischief! Jay wants to do things by himself on his birthday, but sharing with Nikhil turns out to be more fun. Then they all go to visit Grandad and Nana – but where is the story dragon? On Pancake Day, Amma makes yummy dosa, Indian pancakes. And last but not least, Nikhil and Jay help to save their local library.’
This is a fantastic series for newly confident readers aged 6+ which follows the adventure of two young brothers in a British Asian family, Nikhil and Jay. Each book contains four interlinked mini stories and draw on the author’s own South Asian background.
The cheeky characters, mouth-watering recipes and generous helping of illustrations make this series a winner!
‘Despite negative comments from Aunty about the darkness of their skin, the love and protection from their mums empowers best friends Amrita and Kiki to shake off lifted views of colourism and wear the most vibrant colours at each other’s family weddings. Inspired by the joy in the colourful celebrations the girls make a pact, to always be ‘sunflower sisters,’ sending them in a stylish journey of sisterhood, empowering dark-skinned women everywhere.
This powerful picture book explores familial colourism through the story of two girls who are both about to attend family weddings. It shares the message that we are all beautiful regardless of our skin tone and that such differences should be celebrated and embraced.
It also shares the girls’ experiences of growing up in South Asian and Nigerian communities with strong, powerful mothers and loving families. I would definitely use this with children across KS2 (7+)
‘Three charming stories about a young girl who lives in a flat in Lagos with her sister, Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmummy, who is very bossy. Too Small Tola is just the right size to fit under the bed and rescue Grandmummy’s most prized possession when it goes missing. Her abilities in maths prove to be very helpful when Grandmummy becomes ill. In the title story, though Grandmummy can’t afford to buy Tola new clothes, Tola turns out to be just as fine as the three fine girls she so greatly admires.’
This is the second title in the Tola series which features a small, determined little girl Tola. I particularly like that it is set in flat, a modern, African city, not the rural Africa so often depicted in children’s books. I think many readers will be able to empathise with Tola when she feels small and overlooked, and will enjoy the warmth and love which radiates from this story’s pages. 6+
This is only a very small selection of some if the wonderful titles which are available. For more inspiration, take a look HERE and watch out for my upcoming post ‘Reflecting Realities – Part 2 (non-traditional families.) please do also share some of your favourite diverse titles in the comments.
*Thank you to all the publishers who sent me these titles to review*