by Kwame Alexander
Our Reflecting Realities report is an annual survey that reviews the quality and extent of ethnic minority presence in children’s literature published in the UK. In each report we provide data and analysis of the books produced and consider the extent to which the books reflect the realities, as well as, broaden the outlook of their readership. We address the shortfalls of poor portrayals and highlight examples of great books we encounter as part of the review process. This year’s report celebrates your book as an example of a high quality inclusive and representative book...
What does the term Reflecting Realities mean to you?
I’m a writer so I am always thinking in terms of books and literature and so reflecting realities means for me, do the books on your shelf, in your home, the books you use in your classroom, the books in your library, do the books you hand out to kids, whether your students of children, reflect the kind of world that we live in – because if they don’t then that’s where things should start.
There is always a call to diversify the kinds of books we publish and promote, but more important than that is we need to diversify our lives, that should be the first step to create an equitable world for our children – we have to make sure our lives reflect the kind of world we want for them.
What inspired you to write your book The Undefeated?
My daughter was born in 2008, the same year Barack Obama was elected president and I wanted to write a history of America, a love letter to black America in a way that a new born kid or toddler would understand. I wanted it to be rhythmic, lyrical, we sing songs to little kids and toddlers to get them to sleep, so I wanted to create something lyrical and musical that at the same time informed and inspired my kid. I wanted to show her how we got to this point in our world where 400 years after the first Africans were kidnapped and taken to America, that a descendant of Africans was now the president of this country. I wanted to show her how we came through that tragedy and we triumphed.
Was there a particularly memorable book that shaped your early reading experiences and set you on your reading journey? What was it about this particular title(s) that appealed to you?
When I was 11, I read a book called The Greatest which was the autobiography of Mohammad Ali, it was 400 pages, I couldn’t put it down and it was the first book that really showed me that reading can be fun, cool and that books are interesting. Up until then my teachers and dad had given me books that I wasn’t interested in, so that was the one that showed me that I could enjoy books and showed me that given the opportunity I can find books that are page turners, entertaining and inspiring for me.
What are some of the major influences on your work and how do you decide on your subjects?
No idea, I dream a lot, and go to local areas, like parks. People give me ideas for books, I borrow ideas from other people. My influences are wide, as wide as the sea.
Finally, do you have any new titles or books in development aimed at a primary audience that you can tell us about?
I have a TV show I am working on, which is aimed at families. My most recent book, Becoming Muhammad Ali, came out on Oct 20th, and is aimed at ages 9 and up.
Kwame Alexander is a poet and author, his book The Undefeated is showcased in our Reflecting Realities report as an example of good practice from the 2019 output. Find out more about Kwame Alexander...