"I can’t ever remember reading a book that had a character that looked like me."
Avanti West Coast’s Beth Chambers is committed to primary schools having access to books that champion diversity and inclusivity.
31 March, 2022
To celebrate World Book Day 2022, Avanti West Coast teamed up with children’s book company Little Box of Books to donate hundreds of titles to schools across its network. Diversity and Inclusivity Engagement Consultant at the train operator, Beth Chambers, discusses the importance of children being able to see themselves represented in the characters they are reading about.
When I was younger at school, I can’t ever remember reading a book that had a character that looked like me. That’s why when I came across Little Box of Books and saw the diversity in the range of titles that they offer, I was really keen to get Avanti West Coast involved as part of our School Engagement programme.
All of the schools in our programme have a high percentage of children from under-represented groups and lower socio-economic backgrounds. I have been delivering employability sessions, careers panels and rail safety sessions to pupils at our partner schools over the past year.
Whilst spending the day visiting some of the schools, I thought we could help them with resources and the books on offer to the children.
"This initiative is beneficial to all children - teaching them to accept, understand and expect diversity."
We then decided to partner with Little Box of Books, as part of their campaign to work with businesses so that every child has the opportunity to become a reader, and donated hundreds of new titles to these schools for the children to enjoy.
Their selection of books celebrates differences and intertwines these features into the plot, without making them the main subject of the stories.
We were also keen to donate books that celebrated other characteristics like alternative family set-ups and disabilities, so all children that relate to these groups and they can feel represented too.
It was a great feeling delivering those parcels, as I felt I was able to give the children something that I never had growing up as a child of mixed heritage, which is a representation of themselves and their lives in books. We have also received great feedback from all the schools who have received them.
This initiative is beneficial to all children - teaching them to accept, understand and expect diversity. We need library shelves to change, and we’ve helped to do that!
Main image: Beth Chambers with one of the hundreds of books which have been donated to schools across the network