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Can increasing diversity in children’s literature shape a more inclusive toy box?

The director of the London Book Fair, the UK’s book industry trade show has praised the increasing levels of diversity and inclusivity found within today’s children’s books.

Jack Thomas has highlighted the movement as “one that will not only stay, but grow stronger,” as more and more titles are offering young readers a better diversity of characters and diversity of backgrounds and experience.

While Thomas has stated that “it’s not quite as many as some experts would like,” she has praised a recent shift within the industry that has given diversity a better platform, particularly when it comes to children’s reading.

Thomas’ statements focus on children’s literature’s ability to offer young readers perspectives from characters of all kinds of abilities, emotions and backgrounds. They follow recent reports that UK readers in general are widening the scope of the fiction they are consuming.

According to research commissioned by the Man Booker International prize from Nielsen Book, overall sales of translated fiction in the UK were up last year by 5.5 per cent. The majority of this translated fiction is coming from European authors.

“Over the next few years, there is going to be an increase in books that show a diversity of characters – books that show children diversity within its pages, the number of characters that might be in a wheelchair, for example, or offer inclusivity of background,” Thomas told ToyNews.

The insight ties in to a recent move from the toy industry to grow its own representation in th toys that children play with. The campaign Toy Like Me has just this week launched a new initiative to develop its own range of toy wheelchairs designed to carry cuddly animals.

The idea behind the toy is to open the topic of inclusivity to children as they play, while better reflecting the lives of differently abled children across the UK and the world.

The industry has made steps towards inclusivity, and Mattel recently revealed its first wheel chair using Barbie.

It is now hoped that by increasing children’s exposure to the topic of diversity within their literature – a sector intrinsically linked to the pre-school toy space – it will fuel greater and more rapid change in toys.

“I think it is a joy that we are seeing greater diversity in children’s literature right now,” continued Thomas. “This is something that is here to stay.”

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