South Cumbria Multi-Academy Trust

Teacher backs calls for more diversity in children’s books

A Barrow teacher is backing national calls for more diversity of characters in children’s books.

Laura Reid, Assistant Head Teacher of Ormsgill Nursery and Primary School, says featuring disabled children in books can help break down barriers and reflects real life where one in ten children are disabled.

Disability equality charity Scope has today released a survey that found one in three disabled people had read a book where a disability was presented in a negative way.

It says two in three disabled people thought non-disabled people’s opinions about them would change if they were represented in books. Meanwhile, nearly half of all disabled people didn’t feel represented in books they read as a child.

Laura, the school’s lead for maths and ICT, set up the annual Ormsgill Book Festival to promote reading to primary pupils across Furness and said representation in books is vital.

“I believe that every child should be able to read a book and relate to the characters. I know when I read to our students, I ensure they all feel part of the story and that makes them totally engrossed in that book.

“Our primary school has a high number of SEN students. Many are autistic with some being non-verbal.

“A really important part about reading these stories to our students is, it gives me the opportunity to have age-appropriate discussions about diversity and disability. These reading sessions are so vital in helping students realise they’re an equal part of society, while developing their confidence at the same time.”

Laura is currently in the process of organising the next book festival at Ormsgill School, which is part of South Cumbria Multi-Academy Trust. She has secured award-winning children’s novelists Frank Cottrell Boyce and Jennifer Killick so far for the event on June 13th.

“We would love to hear from any authors who were able to come and talk about how they ensure disabilities are reflected in their books,” she said.

Scope’s Research Panel conducted the survey with 359 disabled people and parents of disabled children.

Ruth Blazye, executive director of retail and communities at Scope, said outdated stereotypes to portray disabled people were damaging.

“It was disheartening to find too many disabled children and their parents said that they’d never seen anyone who looked or talked like them or, if they saw a disabled person, it was in a negative context,” she said. “This sends a troubling message that implies that disability is something to be feared. It can also lead to disabled children thinking they or their disability should be hidden away.”

The charity has launched a fundraising calendar for 2024 available from its website www.scope.org.uk

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South Cumbria Multi-Academy Trust
South Cumbria Multi-Academy Trust
South Cumbria Multi-Academy Trust
c/o Chetwynde School Croslands
Rating Lane, Barrow-in-Furness
Cumbria LA13 0NY

Company number 13414087 registered in England.
Tel: 01229 824 210
Email: info@scmat.org.uk
South Cumbria Multi-Academy Trust