At Intercultural Youth Scotland, we believe reading transcends across all intersections. No matter your circumstances, your background, age, education or income; reading is for anyone and everyone – it can take you anywhere.
Books play a significant role in our life, especially for children and young people. Reading books increases our knowledge, improves our intellect, makes us aware of the various societies, civilisations across the globe, heightens empathy and our imagination. Moreover, reading books enhances our outlook on life and our creativity.
This year’s World Book Day theme is ‘Being an Ally’, which nestles nicely within the IYS mission of being Scotland’s leading charity for young Black People and young People of Colour (BPoC) in Scotland. Did you know that Intercultural Youth Scotland has its own amazing IYS Library? It’s run by Pro-Black and Anti-Racist Educator Lead, Samie Mansoor: ‘Our anti-racist library is an essential resource in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in Scotland. It provides a safe space for individuals to learn about and confront racism, challenge biases, and foster cross-cultural understanding.
Our library has a diverse collection of books, articles, and multimedia resources that cover a wide range of topics related to racism, including the history of race relations, the effects of racism on individuals and society, and strategies for combating it. Examples of books include Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge; Me and White Supremacy by Leyla Saad and Tangled in Terror by Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan.
Our anti-racist library also serves as a critical tool for educating and empowering individuals to become anti-racist advocates. It provides access to resources that challenges dominant narratives, exposes systemic racism, and provides a more nuanced understanding of race relations. Through such resources, individuals can learn to recognize their own biases and take an active role in creating a more equitable and just society.
Overall, our anti-racist library is a vital resource for combating racism, promoting social justice, and building a more inclusive and equitable society."
Authentic and diverse representation in books has significant impacts for readers, especially for young readers, as they offer a powerful opportunity to build community and push back against bias and prejudice. Likewise, books also have a way of sparking intrigued, drawing readers into the lives of characters who may be different from themselves.
Just last year, CLPE published the fifth Reflecting Realities report in November 2022. Their findings presented a ‘16 percentage point rise from the first report indicating that there are more representative titles available to young readers’. Futher more, 5,383 children’s picturebooks, fiction and non-fiction titles eligible for the consideration of this study were published in the UK in 2021. Of these, 1,059 featured characters of colour.
This indicates that 20% of the children’s picturebooks, fiction and non-fiction titles published in 2021 featured characters of colour, compared to 15% in 2020, 10% in 2019, 7% in 2018 and 4% in 2017.
However, our young people are within in 14 to 25 age bracket, and they tackle academic milestones each year with exams and projects at school and university, which require extensive reading. So, refocusing reading back to an enjoyable experience linked to their loves and interests is important as it also supports mental health and wellbeing.
Here’s what our IYS Mental Health Service manager, Nina Abeysuriya, added: ‘Reading for me, is a place that I can escape and retreat into, with whole different landscapes of possibilities. Writing can be an act of residence reflection and rest also. I once heard Jeanette Winterson say that she had written a character in her novel, ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit’, who was the person of support, love and guidance she hadn’t had when she was growing up; that she has rewritten her diffcult past and created this character for herself, the person she needed when she had no one.
I often think about this, that we can find those missing people from our lives within our books; that we find a solace here with people we can rely on, that inspire and guide us; that make us laugh and cry – that bring bravery, strength, and magic even when we may feel alone.’
It can be tricky picking a text. Which genre do I pick? What type of book would I enjoy? Sometimes relating back to a film, game or show can help with interests to identify a type of book – however, if you visit a local bookshop, you may find the right book sitting on display waiting for you. But there is more than one way to devour literature. Audiobooks, comics, graphic novels and zines all relate back to connection and engagement!
Book shops across the land will be gearing up for World Book Day on the 2nd of March, and at Intercultural Youth Scotland, we wanted to share some book titles from our Communications Team, from when they were in their teens and early twenties, and how it impacted them:
The Raging Quiet by Sheryl Jordon, was one of the very first books I read cover to cover. I was a terrible reader when I was in my teens, but this book reached me at the right time of my life. It's about two very different people during the medieval times, who find each other in the most unique of circumstances. Marnie, a young woman who has been married off to an aging lord; and Raver, a young deaf man who is loathed by the people of their remote seaside village. Both are isolated and far from any remaining family. And so, Marnie begins to communicate and build a sign language with Raver. However, the villagers, who already view Marnie and Ravers as outcasts, become further suspicious of their friendship, and whispers of witchcraft and colluding with the devil emerge... especially when Marnie’s husband dies suddenly. It’s a compassionate story which explores the tenderness of love and friendship and the power to overcome the injustice of being different – BIG FEELS! Not a bad title for someone who ended up working in communications.
“All About Love” by bell hooks is a book I read last year but has shaped the way I go through young-adulthood. It’s a book that explores the concept of love and its place in our society. hooks argues that love is not just a feeling, but a skill that can be learned and practiced. She also emphasizes the importance of self-love and how it is a necessary foundation for building healthy relationships with others. When it comes to allyship, hooks' message about the importance of self-love is particularly relevant. In order to be a good ally, one needs to have a strong sense of self, a clear understanding of their own identity in order to lead with empathy and a care for others. Without this foundation, it can be difficult to engage in meaningful and effective allyship. I feel a deep connection with bell hooks, especially after learning of the decision to not capitalise her name to challenge the traditional conventions of capitalisation and to emphasize the importance of the message over the messenger.
For more resources and information about reading or book tokens for March, visit the links below.