LGBTQ+ people and perspectives are all but invisible in literature for children. Young readers struggle to encounter the true diversity of their families, communities and wider society in the books they read. Yet there is strong demand: our research found that 100% of publishers, 87% of authors, and 80% of librarians we surveyed want to see more LGBTQ+ inclusive books for children – and 100% of teachers think children’s books should better support LGBTQ+ inclusive teaching.
The Rainbow Library is Pop Up’s pioneering intervention to challenge this ‘state of invisibility’ and meet this demand. We’re commissioning LGBTQ+ children’s authors to develop new stories with groups of LGBTQ+ young people in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Trained by Leeds Beckett University’s Story Makers team, specialists in author-led participatory literature creation processes, each author will develop their own work of literature, inspired and influenced by the young people they work with.
Along with an anthology of work by the young people, we’ll publish and launch the seven stories – picture books, novellas, poetry and comics collected as The Rainbow Library – at Pride celebrations in 2022/2023. Working with LGBTQ+ advocacy organisations, education providers, teaching unions, librarians, booksellers and festivals, we’ll promote The Rainbow Library in every corner of our nations. The project will also include a two-day conference in Belfast and Dublin in 2021 for LGBTQ+ youth, authors, publishers and literature professionals on the theme of ‘untold stories’, in partnership with Cara Friend and Dublin UNESCO City of Literature.
Through The Rainbow Library we aim to cultivate a more accepting publishing culture for LGBTQ+ children’s authors, encourage authors of all identities to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities in their stories, and inspire a new generation of talented LGBTQ+ young people to take-up pathways into literature.