Why diversity is vital in children’s literature
The world would be a very bland place if everyone looked, felt, behaved and spoke in the same way. Variety, as the saying goes, is the spice of life; it’s the rich diversity we have – culturally, ethnically and in terms of ability – that makes the world such an exciting place. But sadly, all too often, our differences aren’t appreciated by others nor are they reflected in what we read, watch or listen to.
At The Elephant’s Trunk, we’re champions of diversity and we firmly believe that one way to develop into a truly inclusive society is if all our many and wonderful variations are reflected in the books children read.
This is why inclusivity is so important in the personalised children’s books we publish. Children can create characters in our books that look and behave like them; they can be the hero in their own story.
If children are brought up believing that everyone has a place in literature, we hope they’ll continue that belief into the adult world.
Here are some key reasons why diversity in children’s books is so important.
1. Holding up a mirror to the world
By featuring characters from different ethnic, cultural, religious, and economic backgrounds, books help children understand that the world is not homogenous but is instead made up of a wonderful mosaic of different people, with all different abilities.
2. Promoting empathy
Introducing a variety of people from different backgrounds will foster feelings of empathy from an early age. Children will realise not everyone is like them, and through stories they will begin to understand and appreciate diversity.
3. Broadening horizons
While it’s good to read about people like ourselves, it’s fantastic to read about people from other cultures, and with other abilities. Stories are a great way to educate children in all sorts of other customs, religions, traditions and ways of life. Stories can give children a real understanding of how other people live, which in turn will help them avoid stereotypes and biases which, sadly, are so ingrained in societies.
4. Boosting confidence
There’s nothing like seeing people that look, sound and act like you in a story to give your self-esteem a boost. All too often, though, children’s differences are under-represented. This is gradually changing and at The Elephant’s Trunk, we’re on a mission to make sure everyone feels included. But it’s still the case that children who are differently abled, or from minority backgrounds, are absent from so much literature. And, if you don’t see yourself in books, how can you feel valued and relevant?
5. Combatting prejudice
Creating a world of children’s book characters from many and varied backgrounds enables us to celebrate our differences, so combatting prejudice and discrimination. Books should reflect the world we live in, so that has to include everyone.
6. Sparking curiosity
Young minds are impressionable, and children love to learn and discover new experiences. Introducing children to different worlds, ideas and people will help nurture this interest. Perhaps reading stories that feature diversity could even ignite the desire to travel, or to work with people of different abilities and backgrounds. We don’t believe that ‘curiosity killed the cat’!
7. Improving reading
Any reading improves reading skills, but reading stories based on diversity and inclusivity brings an extra dimension. Children are more likely to engage with and enjoy books that either reflect their own experiences or introduce them to new and exciting worlds.
8. Supporting underrepresented authors
Encouraging diversity in children’s literature should also have the added benefit of supporting authors and illustrators from underrepresented groups.
So, there we have it. We’ve come up with many reasons why it’s essential for children’s books to be diverse and representative, not just for their sake but for the sake of society, both now and in the future.
We’re proud we are doing our bit to promote a more tolerant and representative society, by giving children of all backgrounds and abilities a voice. If you browse through our books, we think you’ll see what we mean. The Elephant’s Trunk: creating personalised children’s books that give EVERYONE the chance to star in their own story.