Yorkshire university launches publishing company in bid to improve diversity in literature for children

Beeston Primary pupils with first copies of the illustrated book The Nightmare Catcher, they helped write with Leeds Beckett. Pictured (from left) Zahraa Ahmed, Liz Usseni and Lucas Harker.
Beeston Primary pupils with first copies of the illustrated book The Nightmare Catcher, they helped write with Leeds Beckett. Pictured (from left) Zahraa Ahmed, Liz Usseni and Lucas Harker.
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A Yorkshire university has launched its own publishing company in a bid to improve diversity in literature for children.

The Story Makers Press at Leeds Beckett is working with established authors and schools from across the region to create a more diverse range of books by generating ideas through drama and creative writing workshops.

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Based at the university’s Carnegie School of Education, the Press has now launched its first book, The Nightmare Catcher, after working alongside pupils at Beeston Primary in Leeds.

Dr Tom Dobson, co-author of The Nightmare Catcher and deputy director of Story Makers Press, said the children’s ideas helped to create a story that reflects real experiences.

He said: “The protagonist, for example, is a gamer and the children were able to draw upon their love of gaming to develop authentically his character and the gaming world.”

Lisa Stephenson, director of Story Makers Press, said she hopes it will help improve diversity and meaningful representation in children’s literature.

She said: “I clearly remember my own son asking me why all the superheroes had blonde hair, fair skin and looked different to him.”

Bethan Tidey, deputy headteacher at Beeston Primary, praised the initiative.

She said: “All of the pupils involved have been given a voice and through engaging and exciting drama workshops they have been able to contribute towards a story which is relevant and meaningful.”

Author Sita Brahmachari, winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, is among established writers who will be working with the press and is currently collaborating on a rewriting of a traditional South Asian fairy tale involving a group of young Muslim girls from a Bradford school.

Copies of The Nightmare Catcher are available from Waterstones.