'Denying children books dumps them into a cultural wasteland,' says Baroness Floella Benjamin at BookTrust Annual Lecture

Published on: 10 October 2018 Author: Catriona Wightman

Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE has warned that denying children access to books could have a lasting impact on their lives, ahead of giving the BookTrust Annual Lecture.

Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE

The Baroness will follow in Sir Michael Morpurgo and Lauren Child's footsteps to share her thoughts on the world of children's books when she gives the Lecture this evening (11 October).

Speaking to an audience of publishers, authors, illustrators and other key industry figures at an event hosted by Samira Ahmed in London, she will argue that books are vital to children's emotional and cultural development.

Drawing on her experience of working with children and young people over the last 40 years, she will say that childhood lasts a lifetime and that books and reading have an ongoing impact.

And she will urge authors, illustrators and the publishing industry to recognise the importance they have in children's lives.

Baroness Benjamin will also say that even now, there are not enough books that represent our multicultural society and few writers of colour for children, arguing that stories should speak to children by understanding who they are and including relatable plots - but should never perpetuate stereotypes or caricatures. 

'Legacy matters!' Baroness Benjamin said. 'When a book is created it can have a lasting impact on a child. We might not know their mental state, their circumstances and what reading the book may mean to them, but it is definitely shaping the blank canvas of a child's mind. And yet unbelievably some children have never even owned or read a book.

'That's why I passionately believe that denying them access to books is like starving them of creativity, stifling their imagination and dumping them into a cultural wasteland without a compass.

'This is why the work of BookTrust is so important - they put books in the hands of all children, regardless of their background.

'Books and storytelling can take children to far flung lands, or on exciting adventures; they can offer comfort, a place for their minds to go, or provide a much-needed escape from abusive situations. The magnitude of this impact should not be overlooked or ignored because, as I always say, childhood lasts a lifetime.'

Meanwhile, BookTrust's CEO Diana Gerald said she was 'honoured' to welcome Baroness Benjamin to the Annual Lecture.

She added: 'A true titan of industry and a supporter of BookTrust from the early days, her passion and enthusiasm for children's reading is evident and we're proud to provide a platform for such important issues to be discussed, to hopefully impact change, right some wrongs and ensure that all children not only have access to books, but also to allow them to identify characters as like them.'

Download the full press release

Read our interview with Floella about her iconic book Coming to England

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