Firetree aims to
produce a range of books that feature children who are under-represented in books, in order to enable them to become engaged members of our global community
foster involvement in writing, illustration, editing, design and all the other publishing professions
Despite numerous initiatives over many years to improve inclusion in books, black children and other ethnic groups are still poorly represented. A 2014 study of children's books in America revealed that of the 3,500 books examined, only 180 contained African-American protagonists and their families, 112 were about Asian Pacific Americans, and just 66 were about Latinos.
We found no similar statistics for the UK but a quick glance at the shelves of any bookshop reveals the lack of black children in books, few Asian and Chinese children and even fewer dual heritage children. Excluded children are damaged by this omission.
Firetree will publish multicultural books that feature children who are under represented in books, in order to enable them to become engaged members of our global community.
Diversity in children’s books – every child matters
Firetree aims to redress the balance in children’s book publishing by producing a range of books that give a high positive profile to black children and others who have been traditionally ignored in the world of children’s books.
Firetree will produce early years picture books and books up to age 12. We aim to catch them young in the years when personality takes shape and attitudes are formed. Multicultural picture books can help dispel stereotypes and offer an inclusive view of the world.
Firetree will share the joy, the fun, the achievements and the similarities among us all, to support the development of a new generation of confident readers who can aspire to a successful future.
Creating a lasting legacy of diversity
We will need more people to grow and develop the publishing programme. We aim to involve and attract diverse talents and already have authors and illustrators, young and old, supporting our project and producing stories for us.
We will encourage diverse talents in every aspect of the publishing process to inspire people to see publishing as a viable career option.
Writing the future
This recent report on UK publishing indicates that of the respondents over 74 percent of those employed by large publishing houses, and an alarming 97 per cent of agents, believe that the industry is only “a little diverse” or “not diverse at all”.(1)
Former director of decibel(2) Samenua Sesher makes the obvious point, “Fiction with origins from a diverse community drives understanding and wider cohesion within society. However, it is in danger of being undermined because of the homogeneity of the publishing workforce; a workforce that can be unaware of how their own cultural bias affects what makes it into print.”
Culturally diverse books are not being published because the industry is not itself diverse.
Meanwhile a Leeds University Study(3) has shown that the UK’s ethnic make up is “evolving significantly” and that the proportion of black, Asian and other ethnic minorities will rise from 8% in 2001 to 20% by 2051.
So, as Danuta Kean(4) puts it, “If you want to look ahead 30 years and imagine what the average British reader will look like, you would do well to picture an educated young woman of mixed heritage… if the UK publishing industry pays more than lip service to improving its cultural diversity both in-house and editorially.”
1. Writing the Future: Black and Asian Writers and Publishers in the UK Marketplace, report commissioned by Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency.
2. a programme of The national Arts Council England (May 2003 to March 2004).
3. Ethnic Population Projections for the UK and Local Areas, 2001-2051, School of Geography, University of Leeds, 2010.
4. in Writing the Future. Danuta Kean was the editor of Full Colour (2005) the first in-depth report to look at the representation of BAME people in publishing.