By Jacinta Read
10 Stories to Make a Difference by Pop Up is an encouraging and inspiring stride forward in an industry that really seems to want to do better. I am new to the professional world of children’s books in the UK, but since becoming a Pathways Mentee I can honestly say that I feel hopeful. The publishers, agents, educators and creators that I’ve met seem to be of one accord. They are purposefully moving toward the goal of better representing the children for whom the entire industry exists.
Even before I hung up my shingle in the book world, I was a mother of two of my own children, a hands-on aunty, and a respite foster mum. While every child that has been in my care is unique in personality and in needs, they all have one thing in common: their love of story time. I’ve seen time and again the near-magical power that books have to comfort, calm, guide, delight, and inspire children.
The process of reading with children feeds connection and invites them to receive one of the most valuable things we have to offer them: story. Humans have been called ‘the Storytelling Animal’. We are also ‘Story-formed.’ The stories that we get to tell the next generation —the language, the images, the ideas (silly and serious)— form the very foundation on which they will build their future. This is why it is so important that we offer children a varied menu.
Before I was ever put in charge of any children, I was one myself, and a particularly tricky one at that. With undiagnosed learning difficulties and neurodiversity, I relied heavily on illustration, and the dedication of my parents to give me access to stories. The parents and the pictures coaxed me into storyland so effectively I summoned the will to go deeper on my own. I wanted a sense of ownership and belonging that I somehow felt were my right to claim. I believe they are the right of every child.
Up until very recently only a limited and unvaried type of child has shown up in books. Not anymore. Things are changing because collectively we now know better, and there are enough people with minds and efforts set on doing better. The children in the 10 Stories books come from all walks of life (the main characters in the book by Jamila Gavin that I’m working on are all wheelchair users). This is going to make every difference to every reader. From what I understand, this is what PopUp Projects is all about. This is the spirit in which everyone involved in this transformation seems to be moving. I am so grateful to be involved!
Jacinta Read is one of the Pathways mentees contributing to 10 Stories to Make a Difference. She will be illustrating ‘In Her Element’, a story written by ‘Coram Boy’ author Jamila Gavin, about a girl named Sophie with cerebral palsy who daydreams of swimming in the ocean with whales.
Find out more about In Her Element, and get your hands on a first edition through the Ten Stories Crowdfunder:
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