Universal Music Group and The Reading Agency gift books by Black authors to libraries across the UK

As Black History Month reaches its conclusion, The Reading Agency and Universal Music Group (UMG) are pleased to announce the ‘Mark My Words’ campaign, providing copies of books by Black authors to libraries across the UK. The Reading Agency partnered with UMG through the company’s UK Task Force for Meaningful Change (UKTFMC), which focuses on the unique challenges facing the UK’s Black community.

The titles, including both fiction and non-fiction books for both children and adults, will be donated to local authority hubs across the UK. Selected collaboratively between UMG and The Reading Agency, the collection of engaging and accessible titles has been chosen to appeal to a broad audience of all reading levels.

The ‘Mark My Words’ campaign supports a joint commitment to social justice, championing the role that reading plays in tackling inequality. By gifting the titles directly into public libraries, ‘Mark My Words’ will ensure that the books are freely accessible to those who will benefit from them most.

Research on children’s books in the UK shows that published authors and illustrators do not reflect the UK population at large. In 2019, 8.68% of children’s book creators were people of colour, with just 2.86% being British people of colour.[1]Research demonstrates that children’s books can support young people in the exploration of themselves and others, providing recognition for readers who can identify, and insight and understanding for those who don’t.[2] Similarly for adults, studies show that writers of colour are ‘undervalued’ by the publishing industry, affecting the acquisition, promotion, and sales of their books.[3] A survey of writers across the UK found that while 13% of respondents identified as being from a minority ethnic background, only 9% earned more than £30,000 annually for their writing[4]. By gifting these books into libraries UMG and The Reading Agency hope to shine a light on Black authors and their creativity.

The series of gifted books will be announced in November and will include titles from the 2022 Quick Reads series, The Reading Agency’s life-changing programme which tackles the UK’s adult literacy crisis by helping less confident readers get reading.

The titles will be available to borrow in public libraries from early December and will be accompanied by a series of events in libraries across the country with some of the books’ authors. Full details of the events programme will be announced in the coming weeks. The children’s titles will also be supported with free Chatterbooks resources, consisting of activities designed to support children’s development by encouraging them to read and talk about books.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency says:“We are delighted to be partnering with Universal Music Group on this inspiring campaign. A key objective for The Reading Agency is to ensure the work and impact of The Reading Agency is reflective of the society in which we live and of those we serve. Working together on this campaign offers an exciting opportunity to fulfil some of these objectives and celebrate important books by excellent Black authors.”

Dr. Menna Demessie, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Universal Music Group’s global Task Force for Meaningful Change says: “Supporting initiatives like ‘Mark My Words’ is extremely important for us. To be able to help place Black authors’ work into more hands, to help push Black stories into more spaces – it’s so important to this journey of empowerment, empathy, and unity that we are all on as a nation. We thank The Reading Agency for helping us to deliver such a powerful project.”

[1] We Need Diverse Books (2021); Ramdarshan Bold (2020), ‘Representation of people of colour among children’s book authors and illustrators’

[2] CLPE (2020) Reflecting Realities

[3] Saha and van Lente (2020), ‘Re:Thinking Diversity in Publishing

[4] Royal Society of Literature (2019), ‘A Room of My Own: What writers need to work today’

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