I’ve had a love affair with libraries and books since my girlhood. My life could have taken a totally different and less happy turn without exposure to good books and a public library. As an young adult because I moved around often, I only bought books that had a special meaning to me. I still enjoyed going into the library and walking along the aisles to find the book that called to me. Now that I’m a parent, I still enjoy going to the local library with my children. However, I struggle to find a regular supply of inclusive books. I also notice that diverse books are not given much publicity. I don’t have figures to quote but I can speak in terms of what I see on the shop floor of the main book shops. I usually find out about diverse books mainly from fellow bloggers, as well as from book stalls at special children’s events (i.e. Imagine Fest, Black Baby Show, Radical Book Fair). I recently found out about the #coverkidsbooks campaign and I have a better picture of why it’s such a challenge to find out about children’s books in general.

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As a parent, reader and writer, I have a particular interest in diverse books.  However,  I think its vital to look at the overall picture first to gage what we are working with. According to The Middle Grader Strikes Back  (TMGSB) ‘3% of all book review space in UK national newspapers, despite accounting for over 30% of the market.’  TMGSB went on to quote the findings of   Imogen Russell Williams (a children’s literature critic who writes for The Guardian, Metro) and MG Strikes Back counting of reviews for a month last year.

Weekend newspapers, August 2015

Newspaper All Book Reviews Children’s Book Reviews Percentage Children’s Book Reviews All Book Reviews (Inches) Children’s Book Reviews (Inches) Percentage Children’s Book Inches
Times 110 7 6.4 1117 42 3.8
Sunday Times 95 3 3.2 891 12 1.3
Guardian 104 4 3.8 1645.5 58 3.5
Observer 61 2 3.3 792 29 3.7
Independent 73 2 2.7 871 25 2.9
Independent On Sunday 67 3 4.4 392 21 4.3
FT 41 0 0 699 0 0
Telegraph 52 13 25 723.5 58.5 8
Sunday Telegraph 42 1 2.4 352.5 2 0.6
Daily Express 1 0 0 1 0 0
Sunday Express 41 1 2.4 137.7 2 1.5
The Sun On Sunday 5 0 0 7 0 0
Sunday Mail 60 1 1.7 405 1 0.2
TOTAL 752 37 4.9 8034.2 250.5 3.1

I was astounded that for the month of August 2015 the most children’s books reviews were done by The Telegraph. The grand total of 13. Times covered 7. How bizarre at the height of summer which is an excellent opportunity for children and carers to explore more reading for pleasure. The Guardian only covered 4 children’s books. Online, The Guardian has a section dedicated to children’s’ books which allows readers to upload their own reviews. I thought it was an excellent opportunity to share some the books my children and I have enjoyed other online users but I found it tricky to navigate and leave reviews. I gave up in the end.

My question is based on the poor coverage, how to libraries, bookshops and children centres know the full range of what’s available for their readers? Of course I know there are catalogues publishers and book sellers catalogues but its the reviews that give the experience of material. How can parents and carers avoid the trap of simply buying what’s most popular and not allow children to experience a wide variety of reading matter? In my humble opinion the system is set up for only a few to succeed and whether intentional or not reading is material in censored.

How do you decide what books to buy? Tell us and use the hashtag #coverkidsbooks to join the conversation.

 

IOW

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