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interview  Laura Henry-Allain wants to read it.” The bold illustrations by Onyinye Iwu support the text beautifully. “Onyinye really understood the brief and brought my writing to life.”

My Skin, Your Skin encourages discussion. “Adults have said to me that it’s a great starting point for them in allyship and antiracist practice. In Anti-Bullying Week, a headteacher bought a copy of the book and then realised that she needed one in every classroom. So, all the way from Foundation Stage to Year 6, they used the book as a focus.

“Children love the book because it opens up questions and they then have more questions. When I do author visits, I first talk about how we’re all different, and then I talk about colour. I talk about how I’m Black, and there might be Fatima, John, Swati, who are also Black, but still, we’re all different. And it really gets them talking. Children have been able to talk about themselves, their background, their family origins. For some children, this could have been the only time that their differences, their uniqueness, have been acknowledged.”

Laura hopes the book “will go some way to helping to create a more tolerant and equitable world for the next generation”. I wonder if she feels things are changing for children growing up today. “I think they are. Children are now more vocal. They have a really clear understanding about what is right or wrong. But we’re only going to get there if we have grown-ups – teachers, educators, parents, carers – being part of this as well. It’s a three-way process. For teachers, it’s important to bring the parents in – explain to them why you’re doing this work. I think it will take another generation. I live in hope. I’m optimistic. It’s a big problem. It’s a global problem. But we have to start small. Tiny little things. Hopefully this generation of children will be able to speak out and say it’s wrong.”

In 2021, Laura received an MBE in the New Year Honours list for services to education. I ask her what this meant to her. “I was working on my laptop and an email came in with ‘Cabinet Office’ on it. I read it and I just fell to the floor. I’m dyslexic; I left school with hardly any qualifications. When I think where I’ve come from, to get this acknowledgement for services to education is amazing. I dedicated my awards to my mum, my gran and other family members. The MBE is in recognition of my family.” 

My Skin, Your Skin: Let’s Talk About Race, Racism and Empowerment by Laura Henry-Allain MBE, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu, is published by Ladybird Books. and @laurahallain on Twitter and Instagram

Alice Ellerby is sub-editor at JUNO.


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