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Analysis of bestselling UK picture books shows ‘concerning’ lack of diversity

In the UK, an analysis of bestselling picture books has found for the second year running that the most popular illustrated children’s books are dominated by male characters and feature very few BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) characters, reports the Guardian.

Using data from Nielsen BookScan, the report looked at the top 100 bestselling picture books in the UK in 2018, and found that 25% of the books portrayed only white people. Nearly 70% of books with illustrations of BAME characters featured them only in non-speaking roles, with only 7% of BAME characters referred to by name.

One in five of the bestsellers didn’t feature any female characters at all, while 41% of characters were identified as female and 59% male. A child is 1.6 times more likely to read a book with a male lead, and speaking roles for male characters were up by 19% since last year.

Despite a fifth of the titles being published in the previous 12 months, an increase of 29% on on the previous year, over a fifth of the sample was also made up of books published in the last century. About two-thirds of both authors and illustrators on the list are male, while less than 2% of British illustrators are people of colour.

UK Publishers Association deputy chief executive Emma House said the results were ‘highly concerning’, adding that publishers must ‘recognise their responsibility to reflect society and enrich the lives of all children through books’. However, she said, ‘It will take time for these changes to permeate bestseller lists.’

 

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