- Behind the scenes at Usborne
Why does promoting diversity and inclusion matter so much?
One day during the November 2020 lockdown, I was on my daily trudge through the small rural town where I live, worrying about the plan for my new book All About Diversity. Had we actually included everybody? Maybe some of the characters we’d invented were just too ‘out there’ to be convincing?
That’s when I saw a friend on the other side of the road. Let's call him Angus. Angus was proudly sporting a colourful prosthetic leg, his usual kilt, a T-shirt advertising one of the many triathlons he has entered, pink lockdown hair and an admirable bushy red beard. A brilliant gardener and a fine cook, Angus lives with his husband and their three-legged poodle (let’s call her Polly). He was taking his daily stroll with another friend (let’s call him Isaac). Isaac was born in Botswana and was adopted as a baby. He trained as a chef and works (when he can) in the local pub cooking Asian fusion food. His partner is a Czech engineer whose hobby is woodworking, and they have a delightful mixed heritage, bilingual daughter who is besotted with fairies and birdwatching.
Talking to Angus and Isaac across the road that day was when I stopped worrying and learned to love All About Diversity. I realised that we could never represent every possible type of diversity in the world in one short book when there is so much in one small town, and in every classroom in the land. Instead, we should just attempt to make the book as diverse and fun as possible, disrupt stereotypes and celebrate the whole concept of diversity and what it means for young children.
But why does promoting inclusion and diversity matter so much? It matters because we want equality of opportunity for all our children, and for all children to be the best they can be. We need to acknowledge difference to be able to recognize the support that different people may need.
If we ignore someone’s skin colour (for example) or background, we are also ignoring the experiences that have made them who they are. Understanding, appreciating and celebrating (not just ‘tolerating’) differences of all kinds helps build children’s self-esteem and promotes a fairer and more equal society, which in turn supports all children’s development, education and wellbeing.
The main aim of All About Diversity is to be part of that celebration: to help ALL children to feel valued and respected, and to help them learn to respond in a kind and fair way to everyone, regardless of shape, size, age, sexual preference, ability, gender, skin colour, nationality, language, education, beliefs, culture, family background, and so on.
We wanted to include all sorts of visible physical differences throughout the book, but also present some of the many other ways that make people different: family composition and heritage; what we eat; the homes we live in; the transport we use; how we get our food; how we communicate; different beliefs, and the festivals we celebrate. Cultural differences, different kinds of disability, personal preferences and neurodiversity (the different ways that people think, learn and behave) are also explained and explored in a positive and celebratory way.
Academic expert Dr Chandrika Devarakonda, who has researched, taught and written extensively and is passionate about promoting inclusion and diversity in Early Years settings, came on board to advise on the wide-ranging themes we covered. Frankie Allen’s inspired designs and Spanish artist Mar Ferrero’s vibrant and often humorous illustrations brought all the characters to life in a way that ensures the book is both enjoyable to read and fun to look at.
At the back of the book, we include some ‘Notes for grown-ups’ with ideas on how you can help your child develop the important skill of learning to appreciate and celebrate difference. You can read some of those ideas in our blog.