Children's Laureate [Negress] Malorie Blackman tells Sky News youngsters may be put off reading because there are too few black characters.
Malorie Blackman wants more black commissioning editors
Authors and novelists are calling for more black and mixed ethnicity characters in children's literature.
Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman believes a lack of diversity in books stops children from reading and pursuing the arts. She told Sky News that it could lead non-white readers to feel excluded from society, because they are not represented in the literature.
"That's not to say that children and young adults only want to read about themselves," Ms Blackman said.
"Of course not - you want to escape into fiction as well and read about other people, other cultures, other lives, other planets and so on.
"But I think there is a very significant message that goes out when you cannot see yourself at all in the books you are reading.
"I think it is saying 'well, you may be here, but do you really belong?'"Ms Blackman believes responsibility for change does not lie solely at the feet of authors. She says publishers, illustrators, stockists and parents all have a part to play if there is to be a significant shift in the ethnicities and minorities [fast becoming the majority] represented.
"I think what we need, especially in publishing, is more commissioning editors, and editors who are people of colour.
"We need more people working in the publishing industry itself who are people of colour," she said.On a visit to Archway Library in North London, novelist Nikita Lalwani (Gifted, The Village) echoed the sentiment.
"Any anxieties publishers have about putting a child on the front cover of a book who isn't white is very old fashioned," she said.
"The children reading the books are not going to be having that anxiety or thinking about being alienated."She added:
"I'm worried about the pattern that we are creating in this country, in terms of the kind of society we are showing in books.
"If everyone is white or Caucasian, it is just not accurate and it's a very odd thing to do when we live in a multi-cultural society.
"The knock on effect could be huge."