The Story of the Many Voices Collection
The Many Voices Collection is a collection curated by Oxford Poetry Library and The Children’s Allotment of books featuring black characters, written by black writers, or which centre an anti-racist message. These books form part of the Oxford Poetry Library’s lending collection, free to be borrowed and enjoyed for free by kids and adults alike.
Books are a powerful way for children to understand the world they live in, but often the messages they receive from books reinforce harmful attitudes rooted in our society. Following the racist incidents of 2020 (such as the murder of George Floyd) and the rising energy around the global Black Lives Matter movement, a group of parents and educators connected to Oxford Poetry Library and The Childrens Allotment came together to question the racism implicit in the education system and the kinds of books and learning materials around us.
White is frequently the norm in children’s literature, and books often reinforce stereotypes or completely omit the stories of those marginalised in our society. There are still too few books where children of colour can see characters who look like them. The Many Voices Collection seeks to address this gap in representation and build a diverse, colourful, and engaging collection of books for any family to borrow for free.
The books in the Many Voices collection include not only anti-racist books about understanding and challenging injustice, but also stories – because children love stories! We wanted to centre stories written by black authors featuring black characters. The collection is full of stories in which children could find representations of themselves and their families, as well as those that are different.
Readers can explore tales of acceptance and self-love, Caribbean rhymes, poems about growing up in a London towerblock. There are several books celebrating the “kinks, coils, and curls” of Black hair which are so often missing from more mainstream storybooks. Some books show the intersections of race with other marginalized groups, such as disability in a tale of blind girl taking part in her school sports day. There are young adult novels too, where older readers can follow the story of a boy fleeing civil war in Ethiopia and Eritrea with his family, or get lost in Malorie Blackman’s dystopian world of Noughts and Crosses.
Over time, we hope to expand the collection to include titles authored by and featuring characters portraying other groups who are often unrepresented in children’s books including those who are queer, disabled, working class or have different family structures.
Children are never too young to become socially aware. We hope these books will start conversations with the children in your lives, help us to educate ourselves and support our families to be active in raising a generation alive to the injustices in the world and conscious of how to confront it.
How to borrow from the Many Voices Collection
The collection is hosted by the Oxford Poetry Library and can be viewed in full in their catalogue here. If you would like to request or reserve a particular book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For full information on borrowing and returning books, please go here.
Oxford Poetry Library, including the Many Voices Collection, run regular pop-up appearances at community markets, community centres, and events, and during the pandemic we are offering a full order-and-delivery service. For more details, and to find out more about when and where the library will be popping up, see here.