When I first started Risebooks ‘I See Myself’, selling multi-cultural books, it was because I noticed there was a gap, a lack of decent books for African heritage children to read and see themselves positively reflected.
People kept coming to the book stall and asking me two questions: ‘Did I have any books for older children and did I have any black history books?’
As a writer, I did not hesitate or procrastinate; I decided to create the books myself. Why moan the lack of books when I could write one myself. I wrote: Valiant women and Ready, Steady, Gold – I was trying to get historical information into a book and at the level that would be readable by older children and adults. Many adults have told me they read the books and found them to be interested in and full of facts they did not know.
That was in the nineties and looking on now and assessing the impact, I think we did a good job, but the need is still there. Most school libraries are still stocked with 90% books that don’t show diversity. Most of the authors are your typical white, middle class, stuck in the middle ages people – the librarians don’t look very far or wide for books, it’s easier to stick to what you know. So it is still down to parents to buy diverse books for their children.
Books are a main source of education and identity, if not why would they have some many books around us. Lots of people would agree that their children need to learn using books, particularly in their early years, but few would want to invest in the right types of books.
That’s why when I write, I write the characters that our children can relate to. Images are powerful and wonderful and it is great to see diversity, but we have to be the diversity we want to see – we can’t ask people to show diversity in books when we haven’t provided it.