Project aims to buy ‘ethnically diverse’ books for Brighton and Hove schools

One mother’s mission to bring ethnically diverse books into schools across Brighton and Hove is due to go before councillors next week.

Lisa Haygarth is trying to raise £64,000 for the Multicultural School Book Fund to provide about 70 books with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) characters for more than 60 local schools.

She is working with the black-owned online children’s book store Black Star Books and the independent children’s book shop the Book Nook, in Hove.

The idea came about after Mrs Haygarth tried to find books for her young son as the Black Lives Matter movement made headlines.

And she spotted a similar crowdfunding effort to bring ethnically diverse books into American classrooms.

She said: “Just 4 per cent of books have characters representing ethnic minorities and we need to make sure they are in the schools.

“It’s a simple way of tackling unconscious bias and starting conversations.”

The first set of books will go to Hertford Infant and Nursery School, in Hollingdean.

Green councillor Elaine Hills, is urging her colleagues to get behind the Multicultural School Book Fund.

She has written to fellow members of Brighton and Hove City Council, hoping to drum up support at the next meeting of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee.

Councillor Hills wants help for the project from the council’s communications team, for information about the scheme to be shared on the council’s website and for businesses to be encouraged to pledge donations.

Her letter is due to be considered next Monday (14 September) at a “virtual” meeting of the committee.

The council’s educational adviser on health and wellbeing Sam Beal is contacting schools to establish the next steps.

In June the committee agreed to look at the training aimed at giving teachers “practical tools” to teach pupils about racism, colonialism and global citizenship.

Councillor Hills said: “This project couldn’t have come at a better time and we’re very keen to support it for a number of reasons.

“We’re currently working with BAME communities to look closely at ways in which to address white bias and racial discrimination in our schools.

“We want children of different ethnicities to be able to see people like themselves in the books they read and the materials they are taught from.

“But with the government constantly shaving money from school budgets, our schools can’t afford to do this themselves.

“Initiatives like the Multicultural School Book Fund will mean we are able to provide our children with these very much-needed resources so that they all feel represented in the books they read at school.”

The Children, Young People and Skills Committee meeting is due to start at 4pm on Monday (14 September). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

The Multicultural School Book Fund’s GoFundMe site is at www.gofundme.com/f/multicultural-school-book-fund.

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