New findings from BookTrust shine a spotlight on representation in children’s books and its impact on children’s motivations to read

Published on: 22 November 2022

New research and analysis by BookTrust, drawing on insight and findings from two new reports, shines a spotlight on the role of representation in children’s books and the critical impact this has on children’s motivations and desire to read. 

“Reading is really important because you can lose yourself in a book. When you’re reading or writing for pleasure, you can just sit down and get loads of ideas that can really help you when it comes to your English at school.” 
- Year 7 student

Reading is proven to positively impact children’s life chances, wellbeing, learning and creativity. Sharing stories and books, throughout childhood, is an effective way to support the potential of low-income and vulnerable children and give them the best possible start in life.   

Our expertise and research shows the importance of all children being able to see themselves in the books they read and how this shapes how they view themselves and the world around them. Books can be an important tool in helping all children feel accepted, understand others and develop empathy. Representation and diversity in books is important for all children, not just those from an ethnic minority background, and is an important factor in children’s motivations to read. 

BookTrust has today published three new reports:  

Representation of people of colour among children’s book creators in the UK 

Children’s publishing in the UK hasn’t always been representative of UK society. While there has been steady and positive progress over recent years, as evidenced by the latest findings of this report from Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold from the University of Glasgow, there is the need for more long term and sustainable efforts to be made, if the body of UK children’s literature is to become truly representative. 

About BookTrust Represents School Support: Learnings from 2021-22  

Drawing on the experiences of teachers, pupils and authors who took part in the BookTrust Represents school author visits, the report finds that representation in children’s books has a critical impact on children’s wider learning experiences and development in the classroom and beyond. It found that the author visits and use of diverse and inclusive books in the classroom had a positive impact on children’s engagement with books and stories and their own motivation to read and write their own stories as well as developing their aspirations for the future.   

BookTrust: Representation in children’s literature  

A third report offers our response to the findings from both reports by setting out an overview of our contribution to strengthening representation in children's literature and the steps we will take in our work with families, partners, creators, publishers and through our ongoing learning and development work.  

Diana Gerald, Chief Executive of BookTrust said: 

Overall,when you take into consideration the volume of books previously published and that still inspire children and live on bookshelves today, the UK’s body of children’s literature remains far from representative. Improving representation in the books children read remains at the forefront of our work and we are committed to working in partnership with children, families, creators, publishers, schools, libraries and more until we get there.” 

Anieka Caynes, Team Leader for English at Lanfranc Archbishop Academy who hosted an author visit from Jeffrey Boakye said:  

“The BookTrust Represents author visit gives students the opportunity, aspiration and the realisation that they could be an author and contribute to how literature is used in our society. We’re making sure that regardless of whether our students speak multiple languages or whether they are classified as being “disadvantaged” they have access to literature within the school curriculum, and also, literature that’s going to fuel a love of learning and a love of reading.  

You can read more about Anieka’s experiences here.

One primary school aged child who met the author Benjamin Dean said:

“I like in this book that it makes me feel happy when I read it. It makes me feel better when I read it and I can see something like me, and I can understand that is not only me like that.”  

Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold from the University of Glasgow and author of Representation of people of colour among children’s book creators in the UK added:  

It’s great that there’s a tentative growth in the number of children’s creators of colour published in the UK. However, numbers only tell one part of the story and, beyond the numbers, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to make children’s publishing more equitable.”   

Sarah Crown, Director of Literacy at Arts Council England said:  

“It’s vital that children can see themselves and their experiences reflected in the stories they read. BookTrust's excellent work to improve representation in children’s books will have positive real world consequences for stimulating the excitement and aspirations of our children and young people.” 

Dan Conway, CEO of the Publishers Association added: 

“It is really positive to see an increase in representation among children’s book creators and we anticipate that this is reflective of dedicated publisher efforts in this area. We recognise the vital nature of BookTrust’s work in this area and welcome continued research, targeted initiatives and action.” 

BookTrust is funded by Arts Council England and is a National Portfolio Organisation in recognition of the vital role that a regular reading habit plays in boosting creativity.