Heroes for Everyone

FCBG are thrilled that Margaret Pemberton and Hannah Groves from The School Library Association have shared this blog post. The SLA Information Book Awards play a big part in National Non-Fiction November.


Diversity and inclusion have, quite rightly, shifted to the forefront of people’s minds over the last decade or so, but still talking about diversity raises many questions. Perhaps this is down to the interpretation of the word ‘diversity’. In many instances, it seems to refer solely to multi-cultural diversity and BAME issues. However, in reality this term should encompass much more, including people who have physical disabilities, neurologically diverse people, differing religions, different genders, as well as a range of views and ages.

When we look at children’s nonfiction, the issue of diversity spans many aspects. We’re very aware that there has been a shift to increase the number of writers and illustrators from diverse backgrounds. Whilst a lot of work has been done, and the percentage of diverse authors and illustrators has increased, there is still a major disparity. Lit in Colour’s recent survey found that a staggering 82% of respondents did not recall ever studying a text by a Black, Asian or minority ethnic author in school. It’s clear that there is still much work to be done, and these are issues that need to be addressed by people in publishing, bookselling, libraries, education and beyond. The aim of our SLA Information Book Award (IBA) is to recognise the best children’s information books available in a given year, without any bias towards the subject matter, authors or illustrators. That being said, we want to see as broad a range of entries as possible. A 2020 study from the National Literacy Trust found that 32.7% of children and young people said that they don’t see themselves in what they read, and we must work to combat this. We’re pleased to have seen an increase in submitted titles that celebrate diversity, receiving books about mental health, neurodiversity, BAME issues, LGBTQ experiences and disabilities.

When it comes to nonfiction, shining a light on the real lives and experiences of a diverse range of people valuably contributes to helping every child find their ‘hero’. We’re pleased that this year’s IBA shortlist includes books that we hope will not only inspire children to follow in the footsteps of people like themselves, but also embolden them to believe in their own brilliance and become their own hero.

I am Not a Label (Wide Eye Editions), written by Cerrie Burnell and illustrated by Lauren ‘Emel’ Baldo, provides an inclusive and earnest discussion of disability, bias and overcoming obstacles through the lens of 34 brilliant biographies, including the likes of Stevie Wonder, Frida Kahlo, Stephen Hawking and Lady Gaga. Tom Adams’ Youthquake (Nosy Crow), illustrated by Sarah Walsh, offers a stunning and inspirational celebration of exceptional children ‘who shook the world’, from Pocahontas to Marley Dias. Then there’s Have Pride, which intersperses historic milestones and biographies of key figures with personal stories of LGBTQ+ young people, along with Tiffany Jewell and Aurélia Durand’s This Book is Antiracist (Frances Lincoln), a clear-headed, informative and unflinching treatise on racism from all angles.

These nonfiction titles, like so many more out there, not only offer an insight into crucial issues for young readers, but their diverse representation also provides hope to those who perhaps don’t always see themselves in children’s literature. By championing these nonfiction titles in schools and beyond, young people can discover inspirational true stories to remind them that it’s our differences that make us special.

These titles deserve a place in every library collection, and we look forward to seeing an even wider range of materials being written, illustrated and published by and for people from all kinds of backgrounds. After all, everyone needs a hero.

The SLA is a UK focused charity which supports everyone involved in school libraries. We believe that every pupil is entitled to effective school library provision and the educational, emotional and developmental benefits that come with it.

For more information on our IBA and to get involved with free resources for the library and classroom, visit: www.sla.org.uk/iba-2021. To learn more about joining our community, visit our website, follow us on Twitter or get in touch with info@sla.org.uk.

Further reading https://speaking-volumes.org.uk/ have produced a book called “Breaking New Ground”, which celebrates British Writers and Illustrators of Colour. It is a great resource as it lists these artists as well as the areas they specialize in and also lists of their work. The work has been supported by Art Council England. http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/issue/188/childrens-books/articles/other-articles/the-marketing-and-reviewing-of-multicultural-child this edition of the journal is specifically about multicultural books and publishing. Although it is now 10 years old (published in 2011) it is still relevant today and shows how long the discussions have been going on. https://www.cilip.org.uk/page/penandinc this is a publication from CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and focuses on articles and reviews about a very wide range of diversity issues. It comes as part of the organization’s membership, but I would recommend trying to get hands on it when it is published. https://www.sla.org.uk/product/voice-and-vision-essential-issues-around-diversity-and-inclusion-for-school-libraries Written by Jake Hope, this is one of the guidelines produced by the SLA; the author specializes in helping libraries removing barriers and being more inclusive.

Some useful booklist websites






This is the new website for ’Just Imagine’ and includes lists on a range of diverse subjects.

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