Why I'm taking inclusive book fairs into schools

Published on: 13 Medi 2017 Author: Tamara McFarlane

This September, Tales on Moon Lane, which is my specialist children’s book shop in South London, is launching an inclusive school book fair programme.

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I’ve spent years working with schools and parents trying to source a book range that represents the wonderfully multi-ethnic UK society, and I’ve always been very keen to stock books in the shop that represent all children.  Thankfully, children’s publishers are now publishing more and more books written and illustrated by diverse authors and that celebrate diversity, depicting a multitude of cultures, family setups and relationships. 

For far too long, the majority of children’s books that were considered ‘diverse’ focused on difference, as though it was an issue. What we - the schools, children and parents that we work with - have been looking for are books that celebrate us all equally as humans; fully-formed female characters, integrated characters of a wide range of ethnicities living, laughing and playing together, a variety of family set-ups, different socio -economic backgrounds and characters with different needs or abilities. Basically, books that reflect our society and our lives.

Therefore, we decided that we would specifically curate an inclusive book fair to make sure that all the children at the schools we visit see themselves represented in books. When we take books into South London schools (and beyond) to sell to parents and children, we curate them carefully.  We know this representation matters. Every child has the right to be a reader and that means having a right to be involved in the books that they read.

We have watched children seize books that have characters that look like them and refuse to put them down. Parents from all backgrounds have commented on how great it is to see a book range that reflects the whole school population, and teachers have repeatedly told us that parents and children that have previously not engaged with book-related activities have bought books at the inclusive book fairs.  

Excitingly, it’s onwards and upwards from here. As we are invited into more and more schools, an increasing number of teachers are recognising that their own class libraries are not as inclusive as they could be, and are welcoming a book range that can help to address the problem.

In our unending drive to promote reading for pleasure, we know that our book choice, as well as including books that reflect our society, also has to be engaging, exciting, inspiring and full of the adventures that children long to go on.  This is the challenge, and it is one that we are rising to meet. Here are some of our favourite books, currently flying out of our inclusive book fairs.

Picture books

Izzy Gizmo

By Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Bloomsbury 

Izzy Gizmo is like a breath of fresh air!  An inventor child enlists the help of a great pile of books, parts from a variety of machines and lots of gentle encouragement from her Grandpa to help build a new invention - wings for a crow. The message of 'if at first you don't succeed try, try again' is refreshingly told in this book full of warmth and vitality. 

Jabari Jumps

By Gaia Cornwall

Walker Books 

Jabari Jumps became an instant Tales on Moon Lane favourite with all the staff. This completely charming book captures a wonderful relationship between a father and child at a key moment in a child’s life. Gaia Cornwall is a fantastic addition to children’s publishing and we can’t wait to see what she does next. 

Early readers

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World

By Kate Pankhurst

Bloomsbury 

I’ve put this book under early readers, but this a book for everyone and every book shelf. Lively engaging illustrations compliment the informative and perfectly pitched text making this a book that you can dip in and out of, or sink into and read from cover to cover. 

Ages 8-12

All Sorts to Make a World

By John Agard

Barrington Stoke

Barrington Stoke have been leading the way in inclusive children’s books for years. Each of their books has a dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and paper stock, meaning that more children can access their brilliant authors and stories. All Sorts to Make a World follows Shona on a fascinating adventure with her father.

Booked

By Kwame Alexander

Turtleback Books 

This unputdownable book grabs you in seconds, throwing you into brilliantly constructed characters, stunning language and an unexpected story. Refreshing, revelatory and fantastic.

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