Lack of children’s books with disability

David Baddiel: children’s fiction needs more wheelchair whizzkids


The Observer, 29-9-19


Disabled children have been “airbrushed” out of bestselling children’s fiction for more than a century in order to present an unrealistic version of the world, David Baddiel has said.

…Over the past 12 months, only one book in the top 100 bestselling children’s fiction titles featured disability and stated this in the descriptions provided by publishers, according to data from Nielsen Book research shared exclusively with the Observer. That book, about an amputee bank robber, was Bad Dad by David Walliams. Baddiel, who has just written his own novel starring a disabled child, said that among bestselling children’s stories “disabled characters aren’t represented enough, which is not just an issue for disabled people. In my opinion, it’s an issue for all children.”

He added: “Leaving [disabled people] out of children’s understanding of the world is wrong ethically and socially – and in terms of storytelling, because children do know what the world is like.”

Nielsen found that just 165 (or 0.2%) of the 77,000 children’s fiction titles sold in the past 12 months featured disability or disabled characters, according to the descriptions from their publishers. Nielsen also analysed the data about all the children’s fiction titles published since 1898 and found just 708 books containing these keywords in their description.

…He acknowledged that less famous writers may be more fearful about breaking conventions in case it alienates publishers or parents, and he feels lucky he can write about what he wants to. “Because I am a bestselling author, I have a certain licence.”

A report by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education earlier this monthfurther criticised the lack of diversity in children’s books. …