All primary schools in England to be supported to bring inclusive and representative stories into the classroom

Published on: 08 September 2021

This week, every primary school in England will receive a free copy of Happy Here, a new anthology from 20 of our best Black British writers and illustrators.  

The cover of Happy Here, photographed by Deborah TexeiraPhotograph: Deborah Texeira

Published by inclusive publisher Knights OfHappy Here includes stories and poems which explore themes of joy, home and family through a wide range of genres and styles. The initiative is part of a wider long-term programme of research and activity led by the children’s reading charity BookTrust and The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) to empower changes in teaching practice and improve representation in children's literature and publishing. 

Alongside this, BookTrust and CLPE are supporting schools with a range of resources and events designed to help teachers share a love of reading and writing with children and give them a rich and diverse learning experience by bringing inclusive and representative stories into the classroom: 

  • All schools are invited to attend a free online event with celebrated children's author Joseph Coelho, hosted by BookTrust on 13th October as part of Black History Month. 
  • CLPE are providing free teaching sequence for Key Stage 2, to support schools in the study and enjoyment of Happy Here as part of their Literacy Curriculum. 
  • CLPE will deliver online sessions for teachers to learn more about the importance of representation in the classroom.  
  • BookTrust has provided an additional 50 free copies of Happy Here to 100 schools with a minimum of 25% of pupils receiving free school meals.  

The Happy Here initiative follows the publication in 2020 of BookTrust Represents’ Interim Research and CLPE’s annual Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature, which highlighted the under-representation of children’s authors and illustrators of colour, and of minority ethnic characters within children’s books, respectively. While both reports have found some positive progress in representation over the three years of reporting (2017-2019), there remains a long way to go. CLPE reported that 10% of children’s books feature characters from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, and BookTrust Represents found the number of authors and illustrators of colour published in the UK standing at just 8% of the total number published. This is despite 33.5% of primary school aged children in England who are from a minority ethnic background. 

Speaking of the initiative, Jill Coleman, Director of Children’s Books at BookTrust said: 

Books can shape the way that children think about themselves and others. All children should be able to see themselves in the books they read and have the opportunity to read inspiring, engaging and inclusive stories by authors and illustrators that are representative of the society we live in. BookTrust is delighted to be able to be working with CLPE to provide resources and support to empower teachers and primary schools whilst also offering a platform for emerging talent and future role models.’ 

Farrah Serroukh, Learning Programmes Leader at CLPE said: 

We know teachers are always seeking creative and engaging ways to give children a rich and broad learning experience. We also know that a key part of this involves providing access to high quality, inspiring, inclusive and representative stories in the classroom and on the bookshelves. The Happy Here collection and the accompanying bank of resources embody the underpinning principles of our Reflecting Realities work and are designed to support teachers in fulfilling these aims by centring high quality literature at the heart of all learning.  

Jane Kelly, Vice-Principal at Harrow Gate Academyspeaks of the impact of an inclusive curriculum: 

Holding up a ‘mirror’ to learner’s personal realities is not enough; we need to also show the children ‘windows’ into other cultures. It’s crucial that teachers and children work with texts that broaden horizons and offer wider views of the world. Sharing positive representations of minority ethnic characters has allowed our children to respond positively to unfamiliar situations and settings, think about alternative perspectives and viewpoints - as well as grapple with thought-provoking dilemmas. Our focus on mutual respect, tolerance and empathy has evolved into a whole school journey that celebrates diversity and a broad effort to help our children to find their own place in the world - the wide world!” (Source)

The 4th annual CLPE Reflecting Realities Survey of Ethnic Representation within UK Children’s Literature, evaluating representation in children’s books published in the UK in 2020 will be published in November 2021. The next BookTrust Represents research study into the representation of people of colour among children’s book creatorin the UK will be published in Autumn 2022.  

  • Having the opportunity to engage with an author through a school visit not only inspires children by bringing their favourite stories and characters to life but also gives them access to diverse role models. Schools are invited to sign up for a FREE virtual school session with Joseph Coelho on 13th October visit 

BookTrust Represents

Read our research into representation of people of colour among children’s book authors and illustrators.

Find out more