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Show disabled people in stories, authors urge on World Book Day

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Oscar winner Rachel Shenton and Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson call for diversity

Thu 7 Mar 2019

Authors have been urged to ­feature characters with disabilities in their ­stories. Marking World Book Day on Thursday, the Oscar winner Rachel ­Shenton and Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, called for more diversity in children’s books.

Shenton, who won an Oscar last year for her film about a deaf child, said: “When I wrote The Silent Child, I created a film about an issue I’m incredibly passionate about, and have experience of in my own life.

“I’ve learnt just how important it is for … children to see themselves in the programmes and movies they watch and in the books they read. Never seeing themselves can … make their experiences seem invisible.”

Donaldson said: “I’ve seen first-hand how powerful it is for a child to have their lives and their experiences reflected in what they read – to be able to say ‘There’s someone like me!”’

Meanwhile, the astronaut Tim Peake will send a message urging ­children to read, saying that sharing a book for “10 minutes a day can help to create a love of reading for life”.

The authors Lauren Child, Jeff Kinney and Cressida ­Cowell, plus the Duchess of Cornwall, the singer Gary Barlow and Anton du Beke of Strictly Come Dancing are also among those publicising World Book Day, when children go to school dressed up as their favourite book character.

Peake is encouraging children to visit their local bookshop with their £1 World Book Day token, the duchess will visit a London primary school, while other events include an online bedtime story from the cast of ­Matilda: The Musical.

Recent research has found a decline in the number of children and young people who say they enjoy reading.

Kirsten Grant, the director of World Book Day, said: “A love of reading can transform a child’s future, helping them to do well at school, get a good job and live a happy and successful life.

“We are calling on parents and ­carers everywhere to put reading together at the heart of their World Book Day activities. Whether your children are dressed up today or not, sit down with them for 10 minutes on World Book Day, and every day, and share a story.”

“Our ambition is to restore reading for pleasure as a ­celebrated national pastime for all.”


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