By Luci Gorell Barnes

If Racism Vanished for a Day…’: An illustrated book based on a study of children’s lived experiences of racism.

The Racialised Experiences Project: Education, Children and Trust (RESPECT) responded to the relative lack of literature about the impact of racism on young children in the UK. We worked in three English primary schools, inviting ninety 10 to 11 year olds to express their lived experiences of racism. Drawing on our team’s education, psychology, and socially engaged arts backgrounds, we worked with a method where the children drew around each other on lengths of paper, and then used their own outlines as ‘body maps’ to represent their experiences and perceptions of racism. Moving between drawing, writing and narration, the children expressed things in their own ways and at their own pace, reflecting on how racism made them feel, and how they experienced these feelings physically as well as emotionally.

A newly published paper from the study presents an overview of our research methodology. In it we discuss how we developed our relational and ethical arts-based approach, which aimed to foreground the children’s voices, and support their explorations of the nuanced and complex relationships between their external worlds and internal feelings.

The children described a range of negatively impactful experiences including at school, in their neighbourhoods, and in the media, making comments such as, ‘It’s as if White people are loved more’. Many participants said they had often not been given opportunities to discuss racism and how it made them feel. In response to this, we co-created ‘If Racism Vanished for a Day…’  a picture book that can be used to prompt and support conversations about racism with other children. We worked with 17 of the participating children to create the illustrations which were based around themes from the research. You can contact us for hard copies of the book, and a digital version and accompanying teacher guide are both available online.

Pupil working on their body map illustration © Luci Gorell Barnes.

Luci Gorell Barnes – Socially engaged artist, illustrator and doctoral researcher –


To read the children’s book online:

Teacher guide:

‘Where do you feel it most?’ Using body mapping to explore the lived experiences of racism with 10- and 11-year-olds’: