Diversity, differences and the importance of inclusion with George Webster

Primary Times speaks with actor, presenter and CBeebies star George Webster, following the release of his newest children’s book ‘Why Not?’

As a BAFTA-winner and the first ever CBeebies presenter to have Down syndrome, George is keen to raise awareness and share his passion for representation within children’s books and in society more widely.

With World Down Syndrome Day 2024 almost here, George’s fabulous new title for families and children aged around 3-6 is a wonderful autobiographical story that follows George as a young boy. Celebrating the unique qualities that make everybody special, ‘Why Not?’ is both empowering and heartwarming in equal measure. We talked with George to get his thoughts and to find out more…

Have you enjoyed writing such an uplifting book based on your own childhood experiences?
I’ve loved writing an uplifting book based on my own childhood experiences and family and friends. I’ve had so much fun on this journey, I’ve had the great pleasure to be in such an amazing team with Claire and Tim on ‘Why Not?’. It’s been incredible.

Has it been important to you that the illustrations for the story are just right?
Yes, it’s been very important to get the illustrations just right so then it will portray me, my family and friends, and mainly my life. Tim’s illustrations are absolutely fantastic in the book. I love how bright and colourful the illustrations are and that they represent many different people.

What are your hopes for ‘Why Not?’ and for children and families that read the book together?
I hope that children and their families will find inspiration in the book to see that we’re all people and that we’re all different. We are all different in our own unique and special ways. Being different is an essential message to convey in this book as it’s important to raise this awareness. I also hope that this will inspire them to find the things that they like to do in their spare time and make them glow, to inspire them to be who they want to be when they're older.

With ‘Why Not?’ being released in perfect time for World Down Syndrome Day, can you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on representation and inclusivity in children’s books and beyond?
It is important to have representation within books because things are slowly improving but we still need a lot more. It’s important for kids to see themselves within books, like in my books, with and without a learning or physical disability. I’ve been really surprised in a good way seeing all the very positive feedback from my first book ‘This Is Me’ and I’m very grateful and very happy.

Do you have any other exciting book ideas in mind for the future, or any projects you’re working on that families can keep an eye out for?
There’ll be other book news coming out soon. I can’t wait for you to hear all about it. I’m still working on CBeebies at the moment which I’m never leaving. With CBeebies, I’ll be doing more festivals and shows. I’m currently working on a play that has singing, dancing and acting in France which is so much fun. I’ve got my book launch tour week in London and book festivals going ahead.

 

Why Not? by George Webster and Claire Taylor, illustrated by Tim Budgen, is out now (Published by Scholastic UK).

World Down Syndrome Day is 21st March.

 

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