Tuesday 15 October 2019

Authors urged to feature more characters with disabilities

Astronaut Tim Peake has marked World Book Day with a message urging children to read.

Rachel Shenton (Matt Crossick/PA)
Rachel Shenton (Matt Crossick/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Authors have been urged to feature more characters with disabilities in their stories.

Oscar-winner Rachel Shenton and The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson called for more diversity in children’s books as they marked World Book Day.

Shenton, who won an Oscar last year for her film about a deaf child, said: “When I wrote The Silent Child, I created a film about an issue I’m incredibly passionate about, and have experience of in my own life.

“I’ve learnt just how important it is for … children to see themselves in the programmes and movies they watch and in the books they read. Never seeing themselves can be so demoralising, and makes their experiences seem invisible.”

Julia Donaldson (Ian West/PA)

Donaldson said: “I’ve seen first-hand how powerful it is for a child to have their lives and their experiences reflected in what they read – to be able to say ‘There’s someone like me!'”

Meanwhile, astronaut Tim Peake sent out a message urging children to read.

Wearing his blue spacesuit and filmed in a mock-up of a space shuttle, he said sharing a book for “10 minutes a day can help to create a love of reading for life”.

The Duchess of Cornwall, singer Gary Barlow, Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke and authors Lauren Child, Jeff Kinney and Cressida Cowell were also among those publicising Thursday’s World Book Day, which sees schoolchildren dress up as their favourite book characters.

Gary Barlow is also supporting the call (Ian West/PA)

Major Peake is encouraging children to visit their local bookshop with their £1 World Book Day token, Camilla will visit a London primary school, while other events include an online bedtime story from the cast of Matilda: The Musical.

Recent research found a fall in the number of children and young people who say they enjoy reading.

World Book Day director Kirsten Grant said: “We know that a love of reading can transform a child’s future, helping them to do well at school, get a good job and live a happy and successful life.

“We are calling on parents and carers everywhere to put reading together at the heart of their World Book Day activities this year. Whether your children are dressed up today or not, sit down with them for 10 minutes on World Book Day, and every day – and share a story.”

She added: “Our ambition is to restore reading for pleasure as a celebrated national pastime for all.”

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