What On Earth is Pathways and Why Does It Matter So Much?

The what, how and why of our talent development initiative for underrepresented children's book illustrators.


  • Learning

We're super excited about our Pathways Into Children's Publishing programme, and we reckon you should be excited, too.

"But what is this Pathways thing?" we hear you ask. Here's what:

What is Pathways?

Pathways is a two-year programme specially crafted for illustrators, artists and designers from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds to kick-start their careers in children’s publishing.

Why is it needed?

Less than 2%.

That’s the number of published authors and illustrators in the UK who are people of colour.

If that’s not enough to make your jaw drop to the floor, here’s another statistic to make you wince: just 4% of British children’s books feature BAME characters.

In a country as diverse as ours, these numbers (from Book Trust Represents and UCL) are truly shocking. Our publishing industry needs to reflect our population, to harness the untapped talent of diverse authors and illustrators and to deliver children’s books that non-white kids can see themselves in.

Clearly things need shaking up, and that’s where Pathways comes in. It provides vital inroads for talented authors and illustrators from underrepresented backgrounds to achieve success in an industry that is still 98% white, and ensures that a greater number of young readers can see themselves in the books they read, rather than growing up feeling out-of-place.

Who’s it for and how does it work?

It’s a two-year talent development programme that anyone from a BAME or disadvantaged background could apply for. Our first batch of mentees came from a range of start points – applications were open to everyone from illustration postgrads to entirely self-taught talents.

And then what happens? What does the programme actually involve?

The programme is packed with courses and masterclasses covering topics ranging from animal illustration to sequential narratives, all designed to equip our mentees to bring their stories to life. They're also learn tonnes about publishing through professional development days and opportunities to shadow industry insiders.

They're being assigned literature briefs to create their own professional-quality picture books, which may be showcased in Bologna Children’s Book Fair and London Book Fair in 2021. Top briefs will also be sold in the House of Illustration shop, affiliated booksellers and online.

In other words, they're not only becoming skilled illustrators with completed storybook projects – they're also getting the know-how to thrive as an illustrator working in children’s publishing.

Who’s involved?

Pathways is produced and delivered by House of Illustration and Pop-Up Projects, with the support of 20 major publishing houses and universities. These include Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster, Usborne Publishing, Anglia Ruskin University, UAL: Camberwell College of Arts, Nottingham Trent University and Manchester Metropolitan University – just to name a few. 

How do I keep up with what's happening on the programme?

Stay up-to-date with all things Pathways by following it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.