By Selina Lavene –
Earlier this month, in celebration of World Book Day 2022, Kirklees Council provided schools and libraries with inclusive books as a means of representing young people from a range of ethnic minority backgrounds.
While children’s literature featuring multicultural characters is becoming increasingly accessible, The Reflecting Studies Report found that in the UK, only 7% of the children’s books published between 2017 – 2019 included characters of colour. This report raised further awareness concerning the underrepresentation of ethnic minority children and therefore highlighted the need to diversify literature to expand children’s understanding of the world around them.
Moreover, Kirklees Council recognises the importance of representation in children’s development, and the 25th Anniversary of World Book Day, which took place on 3 March 2022, was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the diversity within Kirklees, allowing children to dress in costumes, representing the lead characters in the inclusive books which were provided.
Additionally, there are a growing number of businesses arising throughout West Yorkshire, which are improving the accessibility of books and toys that represent children of colour. This includes the Beautifully Bi-racial store based in Leeds, which stocks haircare products, clothing, books, gifts, toys and greeting cards, which cater towards young people of dual heritage.
Also out of Leeds is the Akila Dolls range, which gives children the opportunity to see themselves reflected through diverse and disability dolls.
The growing representation of ethnic minority children not only reflects an appreciation and celebration of diversity in West Yorkshire, but it also coincides with a national growth in support of black-owned businesses.
In 2021, HSBC UK and The UK Black Business Show, announced a partnership to encourage the advancement of Black entrepreneurs, as well as black professionals. This collaboration demonstrated a commitment towards equality and diversity, which inspired other organisations to recognise the impact and importance of inclusion.
The increasing acknowledgement of the hindrances faced by ethnic minority communities in education, business, and employment, is not only motivating organisations to further monitor their policies concerning equal opportunities, but it is also igniting an interest in entrepreneurship among young people from minority backgrounds.
This is particularly evident in social media and other online spaces, which has seen a growth of businesses such as Soul Box UK, founded by young women of colour from West Yorkshire. Furthermore, this growth in entrepreneurship demonstrates that young people from ethnic minority backgrounds are becoming increasingly inspired by the promotion of people of colour both in mainstream and social media, which evidences the impact of representation, and explains the importance of Kirklees Council providing books that celebrate diversity.
This encourages a local and collective view on societal norms, which promotes community cohesion among adults and children alike.
It also prompts the question of whether multicultural cartoons, diverse toys, games and other child-focused products should be routinely promoted in educational environments, to further establish representation of children and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds.