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Ethnic Diversity on the Rise but not Pictured in Children’s Books

Famed author Malorie Blackman is sadden by the lack of portrayal of the current ethnic diversity in children’s books published in the UK.

Blackman, in an interview with Reuters UK last July 11, 2014, cited the lack of books for children with pictures or illustrations of black and ethnic minority (BME) children. She said, “We might have dogs, cats, rabbits, puppies, but when it comes to children, very few (featuring different ethnicities) are published."   

Known for her young adult sci-fi novels that portray racism and other social issues, Blackman was elected to hold a two-year term as Children's Laureate until 2015. Blackman said that publishers have long followed the practice of not featuring children with ethnic background. In particular, she mentioned that when she began to pursue her career in writing, publishers informed her that white children would not read books that feature black characters. 

While the UK population is predominantly white, ethnic diversity is steadily on the rise. The latest Census conducted by the Office for National Statistics last 2011 revealed that 14 per cent of the total population of the UK is composed of black and ethnic minorities. The ONS Census also showed that one in four children below 10 years of age in the UK belongs to BME families.

During the previous census conducted in 2001, BMEs make only up to 7.9 per cent of the total population. With the current rate of population growth, experts are predicting that UK’s BME population will continue to increase and will account up to a third of the total number of people in the country by the year 2050.

Blackman is not the first celebrity to bemoan the lack of diversity in children’s literature in the UK. Last 2012, ex-England footballer John Barnes, who emigrated from Jamaica when he was 13, said that people in the UK have the tendency towards passive racism due to preconceived ideas perpetuated by books and films. 


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