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Society must be ‘much more careful’ of bodies it shows children, Malorie Blackman says

Girls Outperform Boys

Malorie Blackman warns society must be ‘much more careful’ in the images it shows children

Society has to be “much more careful” about the messages it gives to young people on body image, the children’s laureate Malorie Blackman has said.

Blackman, the bestselling author, said Britain must be wary of how they teach children self-confidence, in a world of social media and photoshop.

Speaking at Hay Festival, she added adults must now convince boys and girls that what they see in books, magazines and online “isn’t real”, as authors highlight the potentially damaging way young people are represented.

Appearing on a panel of authors who write for a teenage audience, Blackman said books for young girls too often featured pretty characters, princesses and pink, while boys were treated to “dinosaurs and robots”.

“Even that is sending a message,” she said. “We need to be much more careful about the messages we’re giving our very young children.”

Speaking about the importance of diversity in children’s literature, author Non Pratt added even the illustrations in children’s books tended to show a “skinny” ideal.

Blackman added: “A number of the ideals that are presented have been photoshopped so much that these people don’t even exist in real life.

“I have photoshop, I can make myself a size 8 but the thing is it’s not real. We have to go back to convincing our girls and our boys that it’s not real.”

Blackman, who used to be a computer programmer and has suffered racist abuse online, called social media a “double edged sword”.

“Especially with body image, it’s about that sense of self-worth having to come from within,” she said. “And if you’re looking to get it from outside you’re never going to be happy.”

Louise O’Neill, writer of Only Ever Yours, told an audience: “Social media is ever-present now. You do find you court opinion and communication from lots of different people.

“If you’ve grown up with it, its harder to learn to put it down.”

Blackman, who has nearly completed her two years as children’s laureate, also warned that children should be seeking to learn by following their own tastes into reading, rather than being reliant on school.

“It has to be more than just relying on the curriculum, which is why I’ve been banging on the last few years about reading for pleasure,” she said.

“If you rely on the government doing something in the curriculum you’re going to be waiting an awfully long time.

“It’s about letting children and teens know which books are out there and encouraging them to seek those books for themselves and make their own minds up about those issues, rather than telling them.

“Education should be able teaching our children to speak for themselves instead of passing tests.”

Source: The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/11629051/Society-must-be-much-more-careful-of-bodies-it-shows-children-Malorie-Blackman-says.html

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