Number of characters of colour in children’s books is increasing, reports survey

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) has found that the number of characters from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background has risen for the fourth consecutive year, but more work remains to be done

The annual CLPE Reflecting Realities survey reveals that 15% of children’s books published in the UK in 2020 feature a minority ethnic character, a 5% increase on the previous year, and a significant improvement on the 4% recorded by the first survey of ethnic representation within UK children’s literature in 2017.

The CLPE survey, which is funded by Arts Council England, identifies and evaluates representation within Picture Books, Fiction and Non-Fiction for ages 3-11. In the four years since its launch, the survey has had a significant impact, helping to ensure that all children have the opportunity to see themselves represented in the books they read.

Alongside the publication of the data, CLPE says that, together with support from Paul Hamlyn, they are taking lessons learned from the research into ten schools in order to support the reading journeys of 300 pupils across a three-year period. The project will test what happens when children have the opportunity to engage with quality representative literature and will track the impact on their reading and writing. The findings will be published by Sage in a new book from CLPE in 2023.

CEO of CLPE, Louise Johns-Shepherd, said: “We can see that, across the industry, there are real and concerted efforts to change the quality of pictures, descriptions and stories of people from racialised minorities. We welcome these changes, but we are not yet at the point where children of colour have the same experience of literature as their white peers.”