At Usborne, we believe in the power of children’s books. Books open doors to new worlds, allow children to walk in someone else’s footsteps, help them learn new skills, and encourage them to explore new ideas. For this to be effective, all children – including children of every ethnicity, race, age and gender – must be able to see themselves in our books, as well as seeing people who are different from them, in many ways.
Effective diversity and inclusion of all kinds is crucial. However, we particularly recognise the urgency to do all we can to counter racism against black people and to promote equal representation of black people in our company, our community and our books.
We know there is a lot we need to do to achieve this, and to properly address inclusion and diversity throughout our publishing and our organisation. We commit to do this.
We recognise that in order to create diverse books, we need more diverse staff and an inclusive environment.
We are an employer partner with Creative Access to bring in and develop talent from under-represented communities in three ways:
We are reviewing all our recruitment procedures to ensure that we are doing all that we can to attract and select the best talent from diverse backgrounds. We will be examining:
Recognising that it is harder than it should be for writers and designers of colour to enter the publishing industry, we are donating staff time and funds to two programmes that offer support:
Pathways Into Children’s Publishing is an illustration programme for artists from diverse backgrounds. This two-year programme is for talented and ambitious artists who want to be the next generation of children’s book illustrators. Launched in 2019, it’s run by not-for-profit children’s literature agency Pop Up Projects and House of Illustration, and funded by Arts Council England’s National Lottery Projects Grants and universities and publishers, including Usborne.
Illustrators who take part in Pathways will receive masterclasses and tutorials from illustrators and university tutors, as well as art directors from publishing houses. They will be mentored throughout the programme and will create and publish a body of work, the best of which will be sold at House of Illustration and Round Table Books.
Megaphone is a writing programme which aims to amplify the voices of writers of colour in British children’s literature. This writer development and mentoring scheme gives support to Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic writers as they write their first novel for children or teenagers.
Set up by author Leila Rasheed, Megaphone received funding from Arts Council England and the Publishers’ Association in its first year. In 2020-2021, Megaphone will be supported by Usborne, with their donation paying for the fees of all candidates on the one-year programme.
Stephanie King, Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne Publishing and volunteer at Megaphone says: “I am so excited to be part of the Megaphone project, consciously and proactively seeking out stories which speak authentically to young readers growing up in our diverse society. Books initiate change by firing the imagination and starting important conversations, so it’s about time we started working to nurture talented voices whose stories may previously have been overlooked or marginalised.”
We recognise the need to work with our wider communities to encourage those who may not see publishing as a place for them, so they can learn about the careers and opportunities in publishing.
The Usborne Academy Week is an opportunity for eight people from groups currently under-represented in publishing, to spend an all-expenses-paid week at Usborne.
Since 2018, we’ve run a week-long placement each summer which encourages those from groups under-represented in our industry, particularly those from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds, to find out what life is like in a range of departments in a children’s publishing company.
To make this opportunity accessible to people from across the UK, Usborne provide accommodation in nearby university halls for all eight Usborne Academicians, along with a travel card so they can make the most of what London has to offer while they're with us. They are all paid the London Living Wage for the full 40-hour week, and we cover rail fares from anywhere in the UK.
The Usborne Academy is such a wonderful and supportive programme and I really hope other publishers follow in Usborne's footsteps! Serena Arthur, The Usborne Academy 2019
Due to coronavirus measures, we won’t be able to run The Usborne Academy in its usual format in 2020. We will, however, be offering a virtual experience.
A second strand to The Usborne Academy programme involves Usborne staff visiting schools and colleges in their local communities to talk to children - many of whom are from backgrounds under-represented in publishing - about our industry and what we do, from how a book is made for primary kids to careers in publishing for older students. We offer paid volunteering days to facilitate this.
We commit to ensure that every child can relate to the characters in our books, as well as learning about people who are different from them.
There is still a gap to close between where we are now, and where we need to be. We are committed to increasing the number of books we publish that both feature a diverse range of characters and are about diversity. We are also committed to improving the quality and authenticity of that inclusion.
We are particularly aware that we do not have enough black representation in our books. We are examining both our backlist and our new titles to address this. We are also working on books for our future publishing programme which tackle racism and inequality in a way that will help parents to talk about these issues with their children.
We believe that every child is different – we wouldn’t want it any other way – but that those differences are based on personality and opportunity, not on gender.
In 2014 we were the first children’s publisher to confirm that we would not be publishing books that said in the title that they were ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’. We believe that books are for all children.
Usborne is currently taking part in The Fawcett Society’s Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood.