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Top stars back Reading Rebels

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Clebrities join book club to inspire activism in young people

Crown star Olivia Colman, television presenter and Paralympic medallist Ade Adepitan and radio presenter Vick Hope have joined Amnesty International UK’s book club for children – Reading Rebels – to educate children on social justice issues.

The initiative encourages children from 4-10 years old to read books that explore human rights.

Books selected in the club help build children’s knowledge, empathy and agency. They encourage young readers to think, ask questions, seek out the truth and stand up for themselves and each other.

Although Reading Rebels is primarily aimed at children aged 4-10 years old, Amnesty International UK recently conducted YouGov polling which found that an overwhelming 83% of British children aged 8-15 said they know little or nothing about their own rights.

Sixty-four per cent of children said they knew only a little about their rights, with a further 19% saying they didn’t know anything at all. Just 17% of the young people approached in the poll felt they knew a lot about their rights.                    

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK CEO, said: “Most British children are unaware of their rights and that needs to change.

“Books are a wonderful way to access the lives of others and they allow children to explore human rights whatever their age. Joining the club will help children understand equality and know how they should be treated, as well as how they should treat others.

“We hope this will empower children to engage with the issues of the moment - from food poverty to gender identity or the plight of refugees.

“This fantastic book club can really be part of the solution to some of the concerns parents and children have about the future and how we cope with modern challenges, and it has been made possible with funding from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery for which we are very grateful.”

British parents of children aged 18 years old and under were also polled about children’s rights, with only 16% knowing that children in fact have more rights than adults do.

Eighty per cent of children thought human rights should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum, while two-thirds of the parents agreed with this proposition. However, nearly one in five parents (19%) thought it should not be.

Olivia Colman, who is an Amnesty Ambassador, said: “Books have a unique power to teach young people about the world, to stir curiosity and foster empathy.”

Amnesty supporter Ade Adepitan, said: “When I think about my son growing up – I want to make sure he gets to read books with a wide range of lead characters: of different ethnicities, genders and abilities. That’s what I like about Reading Rebels – that the characters and books are diverse.”

Vick Hope, who is also an Amnesty Ambassador, said: “Children are so curious and insightful. Giving them the chance to explore things like equality, fairness, truth and solidarity at such a young age is brilliant. What I love about Reading Rebels is the careful choice of books - with diverse characters, written by a wide range of writers and illustrators.

"Children’s books so often lack diversity, but every child deserves to be able to see themselves in the stories they read. Reading Rebels is a brilliant scheme. It uses beautifully illustrated stories with themes of kindness, equality and fairness to introduce children to human rights – in a way that’s simple and engaging.”