Last weekend I attended the Federation of Children’s Book Group conference for the first time. I was helping out as a member of the Reading branch. I won’t attempt to summarise the conference agenda because Margaret Pemberton and others have already done an excellent job on that front.
I really enjoyed the conference and it was wonderful to meet some of the people I have got to know on Twitter over the last 18 months. The publishers exhibition was very good. I enjoyed the cake (doesn’t everyone?) and it was brilliant to be surrounded by people who are passionate about books and getting children reading for a few days.
But I am going to sound a little niggling note of controversy. The theme of the conference was ‘Write Around the World – Broadening Horizons’. An excellent theme. Let’s embrace everything world publishing has to offer and hear some different and varied points of view! However, as I began to register people at the conference on the Friday evening I became aware that the attendees, all committed, enthusiastic librarians, teachers and bloggers were also all white (like me). Ditto nearly all the exhibitors and speakers.
This is in contrast to the book group I attend with my daughter organised by my local FCBG branch where 50% of the children are British Asian. Everyone shares the same love of books. Where are the Asian or Black librarians/educators/authors/illustrators/publishers? It’s easy for my daughter to look at the children’s book world and say ‘I could try to be part of that. There are lots of people like me’. How easy is it for the Asian girl sitting next to her? Where are the grown-up people like her? Is it that they are not out there? Or is it that they are not attending the FCBG conference?
I don’t want to get upset and outraged on behalf of a group of people I am not part of and do not seek to represent but I just put it out there. I applaud the FCBG for having a conference about Broadening Horizons and for inviting small publishers like Lantana, Alanna Books and Book Island who are publishing and talking about diversity. But I hope that, in future, FCBG and other groups working in children’s publishing can reach out to other enthusiastic, committed book-types who don’t look like them and that we see more of them at conferences and events. My hope would be to see both my daughter and her Asian friend attending or presenting in 10 years time.