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About Lit in Colour

"Literature is a curator of our imaginations, and schools are the caretakers of our young people’s education. They are currently being denied access to the glorious, outstanding and often ground-breaking narratives coming out of Britain's Black and Asian communities"

- Bernardine Evaristo, author and Booker Prize winner

Lit in Colour was created in 2020 by Penguin Books UK and equality think tank The Runnymede Trust. Our aim was to find innovative and practical ways to give schools the support and tools they need to introduce more books by people of colour into the classroom, for all ages.

Together we commissioned new research to spark meaningful discussion across the education sector, and also to help inform our long-term commitment to Lit in Colour. That research uncovered that barely any young people were being taught books by writers of colour, and that a complex range of barriers were causing this - including teachers’ limited resources and time, as well as a lack of knowledge and confidence in talking about race in the classroom.

Why does this matter?

While much of the debate has focused on changes to the History curriculum, it’s vital that we consider English literature too – after all nearly every young person studies the subject until the age of 16.

Books and reading also have a unique role to play in increasing empathy and understanding.

“There is a strong moral imperative in English to explore opinions and empathy – it is the only subject where students are asked to step into someone else’s shoes and identify with their emotions.”

- Assistant Vice Principal & former Head of English

How we’re supporting schools to make change through Lit in Colour

  • Publishing free, interactive teaching resources for all ages 
  • Donating thousands of books to schools across the country
  • Working in partnership with exam board Pearson to incentivise schools across the country to change the text they teach at GCSE or A Level to a book by a writer of colour through the ‘Lit in Colour Pioneers’ programme, reaching 10,000 students nationwide
  • Supporting our partners exam board OCR to add new set texts to their GCSE and A Level curriculum from September 2022
  • Collaborating with Oxford University Press to help equip primary school teachers and parents with the tools they need to introduce more diverse books and stories to younger children
  • Giving primary schools the tools they need to create an inclusive culture of reading for pleasure through our Puffin World of Stories programme with the National Literacy Trust 
  • Convening a wide range of expert partners in this space to continue the conversation through our external advisory board

As a publisher, we also have a critical part to play in publishing more books by writers of colour for all ages. Read more about how we’re accelerating our work to become an inclusive employer and publisher.

Who we're working with

We know about books, but we’re not education experts – and we don’t have all the answers. Change happens when people work together, which is why we’re excited to be working in partnership with organisations and individuals who have been campaigning for educational reform for many years.

We would be delighted to hear from other organisations and individuals interested in collaborating with us. 

Our principal partner

The Runnymede Trust is the UK’s leading race equality think tank. It aims to challenge race inequality through research, debate and policy development. It engages in many policy areas including education. 

Our supporting partners

Pearson is the UK’s largest awarding body. Over 25% of set texts offered by Pearson at GCSE (9-1) for English literature comprise authors of colour, and over the next two years we will be working in partnership with Pearson to incentivise and support 100 secondary schools across the UK to integrate a new text by a Black, Asian or minority ethnic writer into their English Literature curriculum, from September 2021 - reaching over 10,000 students. Click here to find out more the Lit in Colour Pioneers pilot.

The Black Writers’ Guild was set up in June 2020 and represents professional and emerging British writers of Black African and Black African-Caribbean descent. It aims to create a sustainable, profitable, and equal ecosystem of and for Black writers and literary talent in the UK.

OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA) is a leading UK awarding body, providing a range of qualifications to meet the needs of learners of all ages and abilities. OCR qualifications include AS/A Levels, GCSEs, and vocational qualifications such as Cambridge Nationals and  Cambridge Technicals. Well over half a million students gain OCR qualifications every year, which are offered by nearly 6,000 centres including schools, sixth form colleges, FE colleges, training providers, voluntary organisations, local authorities, and businesses. OCR is part of the Cambridge Assessment Group which is a department of the University of Cambridge. We will be working with them as they continue to diversify the texts they offer across their English Literature GCSE and A Level specifications.

The National Literacy Trust is a charity dedicated to improving the literacy skills of those who need it most. Penguin and the National Literacy Trust have worked in partnership for over a decade, including developing Puffin World of Stories to re-imagine primary school libraries and inspire children to fall in love with reading. Building on the charity’s ongoing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we will work together to embed the principles of Lit in Colour into our existing joint school programmes.

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a department of the University of Oxford. It is their mission to further the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education worldwide through a diverse publishing programme. We will be working with OUP to provide free practical support and tools for both primary school teachers and parents to increase confidence in teaching and discussing a more representative range of books.

External advisory board

To help inform how Lit in Colour progresses, we have established an advisory board with a range of experts to help challenge our thinking and offer different perspectives.

Current members include:

  • Penguin Random House UK: Tom Weldon, CEO
  • The Runnymede Trust: Halima Begum, Director
  • National Literacy Trust: Jonathan Douglas, Director
  • Black Writers’ Guild: Emma Dabiri, author
  • Pearson/ Edexcel: Sharon Hague, VP Schools
  • University of Oxford: Professor Nandini Das
  • National Association of Teaching of English: Rachel Roberts, Vice-Chair 
  • Secondary English teacher: Caren Onanda
  • Primary school teacher: Darren Chetty
  • Primary deputy headteacher: Daniel Fenwick
  • National Association of Head Teachers: Lindsay Ruth Davies, President

Get in touch

Are you interested in joining the campaign? Email us at litincolour@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk

Further reading

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