Anthology of Black authors to be sent to every primary school in England

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To diversify the existing literature in schools, every primary school in England is set to receive a free anthology of books written by Black British authors.

The groups behind the initiative which has been titled ‘Happy Here’ include Reading based-charity Book Trust, the publisher Knights Of and the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). It will pair work from 10 black authors and illustrators including Yomi Sode, Joseph Coelho, Onyinye Iwu and Selom Sunu.

The book is introduced by High Rise Mystery author Sharna Jackson and is looking to cover several themes stretching from joy to family and matters of the home. The work of the publishers and charities behind the initiative will also extend to sponsoring visits from authors of the books their work and an additional programme of ongoing professional development for teachers. The anthology is set to be published in August.

Speaking to the BBC, the Director of children’s books at BookTrust – Jill Coleman spoke of the pride associated with helping increase the diversity of British literature.

“Happy Here is going to thrill and inspire children in families and schools across the country and we want to make sure it is read by thousands of children.

“We are proud to be working with Knights Of and CLPE as part of our effort to drive a long-term, sustainable increase in the diversity of voices published in children’s literature.”

Aimee Felone, co-founder of Knights Of, added: “Being able to commission work that has no motive other than to amplify, uplift and celebrate what it means to exist in the UK today as black British is liberating for our team.

“Each and every author and illustrator has focused not on the trauma or hardship of their existence, which is too often highlighted in children’s fiction, but the experience and possibility of happiness for their characters.”

After the Black Lives Matters protests in the second half of last year, the realities of life for Black Briton’s as well as how this interacted with the state at large came under the microscope. This led to discussions on how structural inequalities manifest across different areas of life, and representation in literature and education was among one of the many areas to come under scrutiny.

We not only witnessed a significant debate on the absence of Black British history from the curriculum, which we covered here, but this soon pivoted to areas of literature and the absence of black characters and authors in creative spaces.

There have been attempts to address both. The continued work of the Black Curriculum offers some avenue for Black British history to find its way into the classroom.

Additionally, the persistence of Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo in moving to correct ‘historical bias in publishing’ may soon also have some effect – her series “Black Britain, Writing Back”, launches this month, with six initial titles which range from literary thrillers to historical fiction.

Mayowa Ayodele

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