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Representation in children’s fiction matters more than ever

How Storymix is changing the landscape of children’s publishing in the UK

  |   TOPICS: BCBF World
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Jasmine Richards, founder of Storymix, tell us about the importance of exposing children to different cultures, viewpoints and backgrounds.

A new article in partnership with PublisHer, the industry-led movement to bring gender equality to world publishing founded in 2019 by Bodour Al Qasimi. You can find the previous three installment in the series on Fairtales.

Why representation in children’s fiction matters more than ever

In the wake of the pandemic and the intense conversations around representation in the last year it’s even more important for children’s publishing to remember that they are makers of culture and that culture is shaping children.

Children’s publishing needs to focus on giving children access to an inclusive and international perspective. Representation, or the lack of it, affects us all. Children exposed to different cultures, viewpoints and backgrounds grow up to understand the world better and change the world for the better.

This is not just about putting kids of colour in the centre of the action after being on the fringes for so long, it is also about showing everyone that a hero is never just one thing. It is about providing different points of view and building empathy.

In the UK there is data that illustrates the lack of representation in kids books. Of the 9,115 children's titles published in 2017 only 4% featured BAME characters. Only 1% of those books had any BME lead characters and that is in comparison to 33% of school kids identifying as Black or as an ethnic minority. More recently this statistic has shifted but there is still a long way to go.

Grass roots organizations and independent publishers and packagers are doing a lot to make this change. One such organization is Storymix - the Inclusive Fiction Studio. It was set up in 2019 by Jasmine Richards to help address the lack of quality representation. It does so in three ways:

  1. Providing a pathway for writers and illustrators of colour into publishing, by pairing universal stories with essentially writing apprenticeships that are paid, giving writers the opportunity to develop their skills with extensive editorial support.
  2. Creating inclusive, high concept and joyful stories that put characters of colour at the forefront, in all genres.
  3. Creating a cycle of representation by getting inclusive stories into the hands of young readers, providing them with role models to encourage them to later become writers themselves.

Storymix has sold several projects, including a five-book deal for Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door with Macmillan. This is a magical fairy adventure series that draws on world mythology, and The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries with Farshore, a historical mystery series inspired by the real-life figures of Ignatius Sancho and Dido Belle. As well as The Marvellous Granny Jinks and Me to be published by Simon and Schuster. Our latest project, Fablehouse, was recently pre-empted by Bloomsbury Children’s for a six-figure sum.

Several other projects are due to be announced soon, including a project already sold in a nine-way auction.

Storymix creates hits and creates a difference. The plan is to do this both in the UK and beyond, to delight child readers everywhere. 

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Children’s publishing needs to focus on giving children access to an inclusive and international perspective. 

Jasmine Richards

Jasmine Richards is an author, former children’s publisher, screenwriter and founder of Storymix - an inclusive fiction studio with a social purpose. Jasmine is originally from London and spent most of her childhood in Stroud Green Library, where her love for brilliant children’s books was kindled. She is an author of over a dozen books for children including the Unmorrow Curse for middle grade readers publishing Spring 2022. She has over 15 years experience in writing, developing and editing.

PublisHer is a forum for professional women to discuss publishing industry issues, learn from each other and seek scalable solutions to the gender imbalances that still characterise the upper echelons of publishing around the world. It was founded in 2019 by Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder and CEO of UAE-based Kalimat Group, and President of the International Publishers Association (IPA).

TAG: PublisHer
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