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World Book Day – Authenticity in representation matters

A few weeks ago I gave Little Miss some money to spend at the Scholastic Book Fair at her school. She came back with The Boy at The Back of The Class and Secret Supervillain vs Lightning Girl without any prompting or guidance from me. They were on my list of top 3 books to get her at the time. The third was Onyeka and the Academy of The Sun.

Representation matters and authentic representation isn’t just about diversity. It is also about proactive inclusion. I am thankful to authors like Onjali Rauf, Alesha Dixon, and Tola Okogwu who are crafting stories that young black and brown children can see themselves in! I believe it was Malorie Blackman who said; “books should be mirrors as well as windows”. When we amplify stories from a wider range of cultures, beliefs, and ethnicities, we give people the opportunity to learn about and walk in the shoes of others. Reading is an exercise in empathy.

There is also a gender deficit that needs to be addressed. For the same reasons as stated above, we need to push for more female authors and stories with female protagonists in our classrooms. New research conducted by the End Sexism In Schools campaign team reveals alarming gender bias in the KS3 English Curriculum across schools in England, shedding light on the stark lack of diversity and representation. The analysis, covering 891 schools across 104 Local Education Authorities, exposes a chronic underrepresentation of women’s works and experiences. Shockingly, 82% of novels taught feature a male protagonist, and 77% of schools teach only one or no whole texts by female authors during the three years of KS3. The study indicates that a small number of schools are responsible for the majority of female-authored texts taught, emphasising the urgent need for increased diversity and positive representation in literature for young readers. World Book Day serves as a crucial reminder to address these imbalances and cultivate a more inclusive literary landscape for the next generation.

The Boy at the Back of the Class is the story of a 9-year-old refugee from Syria. It reflects on the refugee crisis through the lens of a child. Ahmet’s story highlights the importance of friendship in a world that is too often very confusing. It is a reminder to be kind. Onjali Rauf’s voice, especially her work with Making Herstory is so special, and so very crucial.

Secret Supervillain vs Lightning Girl is the third in a series of adventure books; an empowering anti-bullying superhero tale led by Aurora Beam; a role model that any child can look up to. When I was grooving to Misteeq over a decade ago… who would have thought. Just for nostalgic purposes…

Away from music and TV, Alesha Dixon is a mother who decided to write the books she desperately wanted her children to read, yet couldn’t see on bookshelves.

Happy World Book Day everyone!

UPDATE: Click here and swipe to see my interaction with author Onjali Rauf on Instagram. The level of fangirling I am currently engaging in is embarrassing but do I care? Nope! Love her!

blue and brown welcome to the beach signage

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