Preview: Inclusivity Now – Intentional Inclusion in Children’s Books

Posted on: Monday 29 June 2020 4:40pm by Jessi Parrott

Jessi Parrot from Inclusive Minds reveals the thinking behind their contribution to the Inclusivity Now strand at CMC 2020 Online.

The Children’s Media Conference Facebook Group Chat – Inclusivity Now offers the opportunity for delegates to comment, ask questions and discuss the content of all the Inclusivity Now strand at CMC.

Everyone has different life experiences. These experiences are informed by background, culture and sense of identity (which incorporates factors such as gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, disability/impairment and socioeconomic status). Moreover, as academic Rudine Sims Bishop  reminds us in her 1990 research, books can be ‘mirrors, windows and sliding doors’ for children’s imaginations – showing them reflections of themselves and allowing them opportunities to learn about other people. Following on from these two premises, the panel in our video emphasises the importance of intentional inclusion in children’s and young adult literature, to ensure authentic representation across all aspects of ‘diversity’.

Sharing a combination of our personal perspectives and professional practice, the three directors of Inclusive Minds CIC (A.M. Dassu, Heather Lacey and Dr Jessi Parrott) discuss issues occurring in representation, and points on how to improve. Heather talks about the significance of language, Jessi explores the impact of either positive or negative examples at a young age, and Az uses her process of writing a middle-grade novel to illustrate how important it is to engage with the community being represented in a story, as well as offering several crucial aspects of intentional inclusion. Using our own varied lived experiences, we simultaneously promote the importance of stories being told by members of the relevant communities, and the ways in which collaboration can support research which leads to realistic and meaningful representation by writers of all backgrounds.

This last point, touching on what Stuart Hall (1996) and others term ‘the burden of representation’ experienced by people from marginalised groups, leads us to the ethos and work of Inclusive Minds. Set up in 2013, an entirely voluntary organisation until its transformation into a Community Interest Company in February of this year, Inclusive Minds primarily functions to connect members of our Inclusion Ambassadors network to publishers and authors who are committed to their books being accurately and authentically representative of society. We also advocate for a cultural shift in the sector, and are particularly passionate about the idea that representation should be considered from the earliest stages of a project.

At a time when ‘new’ ways of working are being implemented through necessity, we are delighted to be making this video. We are also hopeful that the required adjustments provide a chance (a mirror) to reconsider established ideas and the opportunity (a window) to approach future conversations with curiosity and empathy.

Ref: Hall, S. 1996d ‘Cultural studies and its theoretical legacies’ Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies D. Morley K. H. Chen, London, Routledge.

Join Changemaker Lucy Edwards, Rebecca Atkinson from ToyLikeMe, Jessi Parrot from Inclusive Minds and Gareth Deighan from ITV SignPosts’ ‘Daremaster’ between 3 and 4pm BST on Wednesday 8 July in the CMC Facebook Group – Inclusivity Now, to chat about normalising disability. Post your questions beforehand or come in live at 3pm (between SVODs Commissioner Conversation and Cressida Cowell’s Creative Keynote). Why not watch their films first? 

CMC 2020 Previews Event Previews

Jessi Parrott

About the author

Jessi Parrott

Inclusive Minds, Co-Director

Dr Jessi Parrott is a performer, playwright and poet based in North London. She has cerebral palsy and uses a powered wheelchair. This lived experience means she has both personal and professional investment in the power and importance of authentic and positive representation across all art forms, and is passionate… Read more