The Story of the Many Voices Collection

The Many Voices Collection is a collection curated by The Children’s Allotment and Oxford Poetry Library of books featuring Black characters, written by Black writers, or which centre an anti-racist message. These books form part of the Oxford Poetry Library’s lending collection, free to be borrowed and enjoyed for free by kids and adults alike.

Books are a powerful way for children to understand the world they live in, but often the messages they receive from books reinforce harmful attitudes rooted in our society. White is frequently the norm in children’s literature, and books often reinforce stereotypes or completely omit the stories of those marginalised in our society. There are still too few books where children of colour can see characters who look like them. The Many Voices Collection seeks to address this gap in representation and build a diverse, colourful, and engaging collection of books for any family to borrow for free.

Following the racist incidents of 2020 such as the murder of George Floyd and the global Black Lives Matter movement, a group of parents and educators connected to and Oxford Poetry Library and The Children’s Allotment came together to question the racism implicit in the education system and the kinds of books and learning materials around us.

The books in the Many Voices collection include not only anti-racist books about understanding and challenging injustice, but also stories – because children love stories! We wanted to centre stories written by Black authors featuring Black characters. Stories in which children could find diverse representations of themselves and their families, as well as those that are different.

Readers can explore tales of acceptance and self-love, Caribbean rhymes, poems about growing up in a London towerblock. There are several books celebrating the “kinks, coils, and curls” of Black hair which are so often missing from more mainstream storybooks. Some books show the intersections of race with other marginalized groups, such as disability in a tale of blind girl taking part in her school sports day. There are young adult novels too, where older readers can follow the story of a boy fleeing civil war in Ethiopia and Eritrea with his family, or get lost in Malorie Blackman’s dystopian world of Noughts and Crosses.

Over time, we hope to expand the collection to include titles authored by and featuring characters portraying other groups who are often unrepresented in children’s books including those who are queer, disabled, working class or have different family structures.

Children are never too young to become socially aware. We hope these books will start conversations with the children in your lives, help us to educate ourselves and support our families to be active in raising a generation alive to the injustices in the world and conscious of how to confront it.

To find out more about the collection and the motivations behind it see our FAQ sheet here.

The collection is hosted by the Oxford Poetry Library and can be viewed in full in their catalogue here. If you would like to request or reserve a particular book, please email manyvoicescollection@gmail.com.

For full information on borrowing and returning books, please go here.

Oxford Poetry Library, including the Many Voices Collection, run regular pop-up appearances at community markets, community centres, and events, and during the pandemic we are offering a full order-and-delivery service. For more details, and to find out more about when and where the library will be popping up, see here.

We are offering schools an opportunity to borrow the entire collection of 80+ books for use in the classroom or in assemblies.

We can lend the collection for a period of 2 weeks to each school but longer loans can be arranged depending on other schools and the availability of the books.

Borrowing the Many Voices Collection is free, but we ask that someone from the school arranges collection from East Oxford (a vehicle or bike trailer is needed). 

To find out more, view the offer pack here and to borrow the Many Voices Collection, email Phoebe and Alice at: manyvoicescollection@gmail.com

We also really appreciate your feedback on the collection and how you used it with your class or group. You can fill in a paper copy of the feedback form provided with the collection or submit feedback via our online feedback form.