Why I'm passionate about incidentally inclusive books
Rather than striving to create a separate genre of children's books, we should be ensuring that mainstream books are fully representative of our diverse society. Diversity does not just refer to disability, heritage and race, but also to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and culture. Diversity should be part of the landscape, not highlighted for special attention.
Seeing inclusive images is important in order to develop an equal society. Books should allow readers to become familiar with characters that may seem slightly different to them, look or behave slightly differently, or have a different kind of family, but are fundamentally just the same.
Although things are changing, a large number of picture books still revolve around a white, middle-class family, consisting of mum, dad and two children, all of whom are non-disabled. For many children, the reality of life is very different. Some children will live in single-parent families, and some with same-sex parents, some will spend their time between two homes – according to research, there are 35 different types of family set-up in the UK. Some children are adopted, and some children live in foster homes. Some children come from families of non-white or mixed heritage. Some children will come from Traveller families, and some will live in extended families. Children will live in a range of socio-economic situations. Girls need to feel as empowered to fulfil their dreams and develop as positive a self image as boys, and disabled children need to be shown to be fully included in society.
Publishers have the opportunity and, I believe, the obligation to avoid and challenge stereotypes. Representation of the diversity of human life in children's books makes difference normal and helps to tackle prejudice.