Last year, I was lucky enough to work with the illustrator and writer, Eileen Browne, on a project to promote literacy in prisons. Even though my daughter is now 14, we still flushed out her old copy of ‘Handa’s Surprise’, to get it signed. However, it was the books about Jo, a child with a black mother and white father, just like my daughter, that I am grateful for. According to the vast majority of children’s picture books, families like ours didn’t exist.
Eileen delivered a workshop on writing for children to young fathers in a London prison. Many of these men were not accessing the prison education service and approached the workshop with great caution. The impact was considerable and many saw the workshop and the stories it inspired in them as a way to link with their families and children.
Now Eileen, along with other writers, is challenging the publishers on gender. There is is still a perception that while girls will follow protagonists of both genders, boys are only interested in boys. Better get Katniss on to that.