Titles from Akala, David Olusoga and Bolu Babalola part of Universal Music Group and The Reading Agency’s Mark My Words library campaign

The Reading Agency and Universal Music Group’s (UMG’s) UK Task Force for Meaningful Change, a team focused on the unique challenges facing the UK’s Black community, have today announced the titles for ‘Mark My Words’, a national libraries campaign celebrating Black authors.

The selection of titles for adults and children features non-fiction titles including Lemn Sissay’s memoir, My Name Is Why? (abridged) from this year’s Quick Reads series; Black and Great by Rene Germain; Natives by Akala; Black and British: A Short Essential History by David Olusoga and This Book is Antiracist by Tiffany Jewel. The fiction titles include Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola; Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-lymide and High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson.

The books were selected in line with the organisations’ joint commitment to social justice, championing the role that reading plays in tackling inequality in areas of life opportunity and wellbeing. The list aims to provide engaging and accessible titles which appeal to a broad audience of adults and children of different reading levels.

The need for reading material which is representative of the breadth of people’s experiences is well-evidenced. Studies have found that children’s books can support young people in the exploration of themselves and others, providing recognition, insight and understanding.1 Similarly for adults, reading for pleasure has been found to enhance empathy, an understanding of the self, and the ability to understand one’s own and others’ identities.2 However, studies show that writers of colour are ‘undervalued’ by the publishing industry, affecting the acquisition, promotion, and sales of their books.3 By championing these books and gifting free loan copies into libraries nationally, Universal Music Group and The Reading Agency hope to increase their readership and celebrate the creativity of Black authors.

A set of the eight books will be given to 701 library branches across 31 authorities nationwide, including Bradford, East Lothian, Leicester, Newcastle, Rochdale and Jersey. The books, 5,608 in total, will be available to borrow from libraries from late January.

Rene Germain, Author says: “I’m overjoyed to see that Black and Great has been selected to be part of this very important campaign. Readers from all backgrounds can only benefit from being exposed to books which reflect the diversity and richness of the communities we live in. I’m excited for everyone who gets their hands on these great titles.”

Dr. Menna Demessie, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Universal Music Group’s global Task Force for Meaningful Change says: “Authentic, creative storytelling is something we know a lot about at UMG. We’re so proud to be working with The Reading Agency on this important piece of work. Self-awareness, understanding, knowledge and empathy all play such a huge part in the journey towards equity – and this campaign is a beautifully powerful way to help us get there.”

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency says: “We are delighted to be gifting books by such exciting and inspiring Black authors as part of this campaign. The Reading Agency is committed to reflecting the communities we serve through our programmes and initiatives, and ‘Mark My Words,’ in partnership with Universal Music Group, helps us to work towards that goal by getting books by excellent Black authors in the hands of people up and down the country.”

Follow the latest developments on social media:

@ReadingAgency #MarkMyWords

The Reading Agency

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