Increasing access to diverse books.

African representation in school matters


Representation of Africa in school

ReadWheel is an organization dedicated to advocating for positive diverse images of children in literature.  We wholeheartedly love and support a new initiative that is making positive waves in our community. We were elated to attend “Who Speaks for Whom II” forum.  We provided children’s books that depict the diversity of Africa and the black experience for parents and educators.  Attendees were able to browse and buy.


ReadWheel shares aligning goals with the “Who Speaks for Whom II” forum and their movement to have racist images removed out of Austrian school books. Offering positive diverse images of Africa to children through literature has to be done across all boards.


For the parents that attended “Who Speaks for Whom II” forum, our presence was to bring their awareness to reflecting on their own bookshelves at home. Offering books that reflect their child’s heritage is a part of the solution. The books surrounding families at home influences how theirchildren form their own self-image.  It is an equally important way to counter the images they are exposed to at school. 


Representation of Africa in school 

Poverty porn images fill the current Austrian textbooks. Helpless, malnourished, war-torn, and distorted information often outdated on Africa’s development. At times, the positive modern, in style, developed parts of African day to day life is simply ignored. 


Currently, Austrian students learn about Africa primarily from their textbooks and other educational resources. Elina Marmer, Project Manager of Image of Africa in Education in Hamburg presented her findings at the “Who Speaks for Whom II” forum. Her work discussed how African history and perspective are depicted in textbooks.


Yet, the way in which the African continent is depicted in textbooks is a major contributor to the way that white Austrian children view Africa. The emphasis on African ‘otherness’ falls on the scale of poor, helpless, weak or violent, primitive, savage, wild and backward, etc. 


Consequently, such language and imagery evokes racist remarks and tease towards children of African descent. It would be inconceivable to see similar images of European “bodies” occupy the page of a textbook. Such visuals would appear as unacceptable and dehumanizing.


People looked through the variety of books we had on display and appreciated the reminder that there is a responsibility on parent to make bookshelves a safe and representative space at home.


Who Speaks for Whom II

The forum was organized by ArtSeeks Communications and in cooperation with Kulturen in Bewegung.  The first forum “Who Speaks from Whom I” was held in May, 2019.  Adia Tishchler moderated the discussion  on the portrayal of people of African heritage within the Austrian civil society.

The second “Who Speaks from Whom II” took place in November 2019 and will be hopeful series in the making.   Moderated by Rita Isiba, engaging discussions were held by  African dignitaries, educators, community organizers, parents, and stakeholders in the education sector. All arrived at the Albert Schweitzer Haus to dive deep into the topic of representation of African countries and the African diaspora in Austrian curricula. 


Advancing Equality Within the Austrian School System (AEWTASS) was introduced. AEWTASS is an initiative spearheaded by Acqea Lamptey and a task force championed by members of the African diaspora in Austria.

Their goal is to engage with the ministry of education, textbook publishers, and stakeholders in the education sectors in order to create “balanced, accurate, and positive images of Africa” in textbooks and curriculums. AEWTASS introduced its agenda and programs to do exactly that.