Reading for pleasure has been reported by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to be the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success. Its impact on a child’s prospects outweighs their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their household income. Scientific research has added that reading can create new neural pathways in the brain and that the empathy a child feels towards those they interact with in life can develop from the empathy they feel towards characters in books. These factors combined create a persuasive argument for the importance of reading for pleasure in a child’s early life.
Lantana was founded in 2014 when only 1% of the children’s books published in the UK featured a character of colour as a protagonist. When set against the c.2.5 million school children – over a third of the national total – who identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic, this gap in representation left children of colour with precious few opportunities to see themselves or their communities reflected in the books they read or to develop that love of reading that’s so important to their future success.
For almost ten years, Lantana has worked with authors and illustrators from under-represented groups and from around the world to tell inclusive stories that reflect the diversity of the world around them, with a particular focus on race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and disability and neurodivergence. They have played a significant role in the changes taking place in publishing that has seen 1% rise to 9% – an improvement, but by no means the end goal.
Highlights over the years include discovering talented debut illustrator Poonam Mistry who has since gone on to become a major voice in children’s publishing after her first two books were shortlisted for the most prestigious illustration award in the UK, and translating Syrian author-illustrator Nadine Kadaan’s picture book about the war in Syria into English before it was selected as an inaugural book for Amnesty International’s children’s book club. Lantana have donated several thousand books to literacy charities over the years in order to reach readers whose families cannot afford to buy books for the home, and their authors and illustrators have visited countless schools up and down the country.
As a social enterprise, Lantana’s focus goes beyond social justice and representation to include developing sustainable practices in publishing. In 2021, Lantana became a signatory to the United Nations SDG Publishers Compact, and for several years have printed their books on sustainably-sourced paper using plant-based (rather than petroleum) inks. They have stopped using spot UV, foiling or other plastics on new picture books – a commitment they’d like to see made by the rest of the industry – and their headquarters in West Berkshire are powered with energy produced from 100% renewable sources.
To find out more about Lantana, please visit: www.lantanapublishing.com