Young Readers Embracing Equality and Diversity
A new chapter in children’s learning is underway thanks to the success of the Ramsgate Books for Change initiative to celebrate, understand and include diversity and equality through reading.
Through the determination of two parents and a teacher, the project has raised £800 via an online funding campaign.
It means that pupils at Ramsgate Arts Primary and Chilton Primary have now taken delivery of a new stock of books that specifically feature race, disability, LGBTQ and other areas where people may face adversity or discrimination.
As the books begin to circulate in classrooms and libraries, the trio behind the literacy campaign - Estelle Rosenfeld, a parent at RAPS; Emma Dondi-Smith, a Chilton parent; and Sophie Spurrier, a teacher who is Reading Leader at RAPS – are proud of the support they have received.
Each school has received more than 50 books that were hand-picked after reviews by adults and young readers, and sourced through Moon Lane Bookshop in Ramsgate.
The team is now working to ensure the remainder of funds raised enables starter packs for every school in the town; and the overall venture has helped inspire a similar scheme beginning in Margate.
Sophie, who is also Early Years Foundation Studies lead, said: “Having access to a range of diverse literature in the early years foundation stage is vital as it helps to shape our children's experiences and build on their knowledge of the world around them.
“At RAPS we believe that all children should see themselves and their families reflected in play, resources and high-quality texts. We have a responsibility to extend young children's understanding beyond their immediate environment.
“Starting with themselves, our children will develop a sense of belonging within the local community and begin to understand and respect others. As they progress through the years, the children will continue to be provided with more mature texts which not only challenge stereotypes but provide children with diverse leading protagonists.”
Emma agreed and added: “Being a part of the Ramsgate Books for Change team has been incredibly exciting. I have loved researching books, fundraising to purchase them, sourcing and ordering them from Moon Lane Bookshop and then the most exciting bits of all, reading, reviewing them and getting them into Chilton and RAPs for the children to enjoy and benefit from.
“I've loved every stage of this process. As have my children who've been a huge part of the review process in our house.
“The thought of the children at Chilton and RAPs sinking their teeth into these hugely representative books is really exciting. Now is the right time for children to see themselves and their communities in the literature they read.”
Estelle agreed. She said: “It’s been a fantastic experience to review all these books with my children and witness how much they’ve learned, both about themselves and people different from them. I can see they feel validated by having met characters with similar heritage and they have deepened their understanding of people who live with a particular condition or come from other backgrounds.
“Advocating for equality and diversity shouldn’t be left as a burden for minorities who might suffer from discrimination, we all have a part to play, it is everyone's responsibility."
Reaction from young readers as they unpacked and looked through the new books is positive. Henry in Year 5 said: “We have needed some books like this. They look like they have some great story lines,” while fellow year group pupil Vikorija added: “This story looks amazing, I can't wait to see what all of these people have done in their lives.”
Reception age children are also looking forward to expanding their reading. Jacob said: “Wow look at all of these books. We are so lucky to get new books, I can't wait to read them,” and Aaliyah added: “This book looks really funny. I want to be an astronaut too when I grow up.”
Sophie, Emma and Estelle summed up the critical importance of their campaign. They say: “We believe in the power of our children and these books have the power to bring change into the classroom and into the world.”
Ramsgate Arts Primary School and Chilton Primary School are partners in the Viking Academy Trust, together with Upton Junior School in Broadstairs.
** For more information contact RAPS Head of School Nick Budge on 01843 582847.