50 new books to be published in Wales for children and young people, to help with empathy, literacy and to promote reading for pleasure.
The Books Council of Wales’ Rhyngom Project, which is funded by the Welsh Government, aims to promote diversity in reading books for pleasure for children and young people aged 3–16 years.
The project, which will take place over the next two years, will lead to the publication of 50 reading books for pleasure, celebrating the culture, people and history of the whole of Wales, supporting the health and well-being of children and young people and developing their empathy and literacy skills, which in turn will aid the delivery of the Curriculum for Wales.
There are four strands to the project. The first strand will be to publish Welsh adaptations of 30 English titles which promote and celebrate diversity – some of which have won awards such as the Diverse Book Award.
The second strand will involve identifying further gaps in the provision, and commissioning and publishing 20 brand-new original Welsh and English books (10 Welsh, 10 English) that celebrate diversity from a Welsh perspective.
The third strand will be to create educational resources based on the 50 titles. These resources – in print and digital format – will provide additional and valuable guidance for teachers in Wales.
The Books Council of Wales is currently selecting a panel of experienced educational practitioners who work with children and young people across the country, to support this strand of the project.
The fourth and final strand will be to coordinate a book-gifting scheme for primary and secondary schools in Wales. Every state primary school will receive a free copy of the books for children aged 3–7 years and children 8–11 years, and every state secondary school will receive a copy of the books for children 8–11 years and readers 12–16 years. They will also be given printed editions of the educational resources based on the titles.
At the heart of the vision for this project is recognising and celebrating the diverse nature of social groups and communities in Wales across the new titles.
To help select the titles for adaptation, and to advise on authors and ideas for original books, the Books Council is working with a panel of individuals who represent a wide range of organisations, communities and backgrounds in Wales, and who are keen ambassadors in their fields of expertise. The Books Council is also pleased to be working alongside partners such as Race Council Cymru (RCC), DARPL and Black History Wales. Every title to be published as part of this project has also been endorsed by the Welsh Government.
The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said: “As someone who loves to read, I know what a pleasure it is to read a book, and I’m very pleased to support this project. It’s important that books represent and celebrate diversity, and that children and young people can see themselves and others in literature and develop empathy.”
One of the main aims of commissioning original Welsh and English books as part of the scheme was to ensure publishing opportunities for authors and illustrators from under-represented backgounds and communities. In order to secure a grant to publish books as a part of this project, publishers demonstrated their committment to commissioning new talent from writers and illustrators from a variety of different backgrounds.
To support new authors and illustrators, publishers have adopted a number of different models, including co-authorships between new and established authors, or commissioning budding authors who have not until now had the opportunity to work with a publisher in Wales.
Amongst the authors of the original books is Natalie Jones, a Welsh Jamaican writer and teacher, who will be writing a factual book (to be published by Y Lolfa) for children aged 3–7 years about 20 individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds who have achieved great things in Wales. For another publication, Haf Llewelyn, a highly acclaimed Welsh author, will be mentoring three new authors from under-represented communities to create a collection of short stories for readers aged 8–11 years (to be published by Atebol).
The twenty original Welsh and English books will be published in November 2024, and the 30 Welsh adaptations will be published in February 2025. All will be available for purchase from bookshops and Gwales online shop. Printed editions of educational resources based on the adaptations, and digital editions (on Hwb) of educational resources based on the original books, will be available by June 2025. The Books Council’s Distribution Centre will then be packaging the books and resources over a period of months, in order to deliver the free books to all maintained schools in Wales by September 2025.