See Myself in Books project launched

Image of three girls reading books in the Children's Library

Credit: Manchester City Council

A brand-new drive has been launched in Manchester to help schools promote ethnic diversity through children’s literature.

The ‘See Myself in Books’ project aims to vary the literacy resources in primary schools and promote ethnic diversity through the books children read. It’s the latest project from Read Manchester, the council’s joint campaign with the National Literacy Trust to improve reading skills across the city.  

Read Manchester will collaborate with 24 schools across the city.  Half the schools taking part have a pupil population where over 95% of pupils are from an ethnically diverse background and the other half have much lower numbers of ethnic diversity.   

The project will bring together children from different cultural backgrounds to demonstrate the importance of diversity in reading and illustration and, how important is for children to see themselves reflected in the books they read.    

One of the many functions of literature is to reflect the life of the reader, allowing the readers relate to their struggles- Children’s books are no exception to this.  Children’s literature allows young readers, who perhaps lack the adequate vocabulary, to use stories to describe their own experiences. The ‘See Myself in Books’ project aims to do this and to additionally, encourage children to read diverse books so they can understand and appreciate the lives of others - broadening both their literary horizons and their awareness.  

National Literacy Trust research conducted in 2020 showed that 39.8% of children said that they would like more books with characters that are similar to them. The report also uncovered that more children and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds than white backgrounds say that they don’t see themselves in what they read (40% vs. 30.5%).  To access the key findings of the report please visit: https://literacytrust.org.uk/research-services/research-reports/diversity-and-children-and-young-peoples-reading-in-2020/      

The research also found an absence of an inclusive range of characters, or creative role models, in children’s literature. This has the potential to deter children from minority backgrounds from reading and experiencing the associated benefits. The scheme hopes to allow children to uncover new stories and to diversify their bookshelves- encouraging them to empathise with other Children’s life experiences and developing their awareness on pressing societal issues.  Additionally, through the scheme schools who take part will be provided with a varied selection of books that Read Manchester believe will have a transformative impact on pupils’ love of reading and lives. The programme will incorporate in person visits to the library and online sessions with the authors and poets involved in the project to aid the children’s engagement and understanding of the books and poetry they will be reading.  

Councillor Gary Bridges, Executive member for Children and Schools at Manchester City Council , said: 

“The National Literacy Trust found that children have a passion for reading, but want to read stories about characters that they recognise and that they see themselves in. The ‘See Myself in Books’ initiative is a great way to encourage young people to read books written and illustrated by diverse authors to broaden their awareness and allow them to engage with stories that they would not commonly read. 

“ Moreover, the children will be able to meet the authors, illustrators, and poets behind the literature they’re reading- which is a fantastic opportunity for them to really connect with the people behind the books they’re reading.  

“I am delighted that Read Manchester are leading this project and hopefully in the future many more schools in Manchester will be able to get involved.” 

Andrew Shelmerdine, Framework Manager, VINCI Construction UK Limited said:  

“We are proud that we can support local charities and enterprises in Manchester through our unique VINCI UK Foundation. The ‘See Myself in Books’ project is unique and represents the diverse nature of our City and we were delighted their application was successful.” 

The project is a pilot and the schools will be able to provide feedback on the sessions and the books available to help support Read Manchester in testing, developing and enhancing this approach.  

If you sign up to See Myself in Books, you will: receive a free collection of 25 books celebrating diversity.  These are appropriate for use in KS1 and KS2, you will also be offered free sessions (online and/or in-person in a library) by author/poet/illustrators of colour.  

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