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Inclusivity in children's picture books


I've been knitting my own book characters to go on a Christmas Tree that I have sponsored. And knitting has made me reflect (it often does make me stop and think) on what I was thinking when I created them.

Before becoming a yoga teacher, every job I ever did involved inclusivity. Widening Participation in Universities, supporting children with SEND in mainstream schools. I've been made aware recently about how non-inclusive the world of children's books is. How children who are not white rarely see pictures of themselves in books or on covers, how families are often 'traditional'. With all four of my books, I have been keen to ensure that children can look inside and think "There's someone like me."

With my children's yoga adventure, the 'yogis' I illustrated are male, female, or gender neutral. They all wear similar clothing. With the exception of one young man wearing a Sikh head covering, a Patka, there are no cultural references. I tried to do a mixture of skin tone and hair colour and type. I hope I've succeeded in being inclusive.

Similarly, I wanted my book to include children regardless of family structure. There is no reference to Mum or Dad or family, but there are care-giving adult characters who clearly adore the youngsters for whom they are responsible. They could be foster carers, adoptive parents, or grandparents, not just biological parents. A Golden Eagle is looking for a safe place for its egg to hatch and needs your help (the Golden Eagle didn't necessarily lay the egg itself but clearly cares about it!) The stern expression on its face throughout the story is replaced by a soppy look when it first claps eyes on the hatchling. Its first words on seeing the Eagle Chick are "Hello, beautiful!" The child reading the book can choose the name of the young chick.

In another version of the story, an anxious Flying Horse is searching for its naughty Foal, and needs your help to find it. On being reunited, the Horse is so relieved that it can't be angry. Again, the Horse's gender can be whatever you want, and so can that of the Foal.

The whole book is 'A Yoga Adventure where you choose what happens!' You make decisions on which character you fly with, what happens next, how long the story goes on for and when you want it to end. Characters burst out of the borders of illustrations and text overlaps. The boundary between your world and the world of the story is fluid and you impose your reality on the story.

I hope that I've made my story inclusive enough so that any child can feel that the story is just about them.





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