Monday, 6 June 2016

#CoverKidsBooks - Chapter Five

#CoverKidsBooks is delighted to announce some fantastic news for all who love children’s books – a new ‘Children’s roundup’ column appeared in the Guardian last week!

Deputy editor Michelle Pauli confirmed it will be a regular column, in addition to the longer reviews the newspaper already runs. We have yet to learn just how regular - the column did not appear again this week. But the #CoverKidsBooks campaign salutes the Guardian for expanding their brilliant coverage of children’s books. 

The Guardian's online coverage is already second to none. However, print coverage remains vital if ordinary parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, teachers, librarians and friends are going to have a chance of learning what’s out there for the kids in their lives. The more regular that coverage can be, the more likely it is they will find it. As children's literature experts told us in our last blog, ‘That's the key: regularity. Because then people look for it.' That's why this new column is so important, and why we are so encouraged to see the Guardian take a big step towards more regular, wider-ranging print coverage.

Other national newspapers continue to make progress too. We’ve already brought you news of The Sunday Times giving Nicolette Jones a full column to cover children’s books, but we’re delighted to report that she’s recently been recommending not just one but two children’s books per week.

In the past couple of weeks The Sun has also given us a lovely surprise, when it included two children’s books in its crime special, recognising that children’s books can be some of the very best examples of other genres.

Reviews of children's books in The Sun as part of its recent crime special.

Meanwhile, The Week’s latest issue features a gorgeous cover by Liz Pichon, celebrating her fabulous and immensely popular Tom Gates series. It’s heartening to see children’s books being put front and centre like this.

It’s not just newspapers; supporters of #CoverKidsBooks have been tweeting about recent TV coverage. First there was this interview with Julia Donaldson on Channel 4.

It’s particularly forward-thinking of Jon Snow to compare Julia’s verse favourably to that of Keats and Auden. It’s a smashing interview, in which children’s books are appreciated both for themselves, and in terms of their place in the cultural and political landscape – such as how an exit from Europe might affect artistic collaborations like that of Donaldson’s with illustrator Axel Scheffler.

This interview was quickly followed, just over a week ago, by author Pamela Butchart and illustrator Thomas Flintham appearing on BBC Breakfast after their Children’s Book Award win for My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat.

Author Pamela Butchart and illustrator Thomas Flintham on BBC Breakfast, snapped by Jo Clarke.

Then, last week, author Tamsyn Murray appeared on Sky News to talk about getting children reading. Well done Tamsyn for giving such a persuasive account of the importance of children’s literature – as well as for discouraging the idea that children should be ‘forced’ to read anything!

The surprised tone of the interviewer in this clip when Tamsyn mentions that she finds writing for children more challenging than writing for adults shows just how urgently misconceptions around children’s literature need to be debunked. In this very astute piece in The Conversation, children’s literature specialist Catherine Butler looks at the history of genre snobbery and some of the reasons that may lie behind it. Catherine was also interviewed for our 'Experts' blog.

So much for the UK. But the #CoverKidsBooks campaign is also spreading around the world. In this blog post, New Zealand children’s author Yvette Carol picks up on the importance of ‘long-form thought and long-form imagination’ that was brought up by Emma Perry in our ‘Parents’ #CoverKidsBooks post. Yvette says, ‘Maybe that’s why children need to read books these days more than ever before in our history? Because reading helps our modern kids focus their easily-scattered attention for longer periods. Something has to happen to redress the effects of the continuous short-term gratification of playing digital games. Books may just be the cure. Huzzah!’

Author Elizabeth Murray wrote a piece examining the state of children’s book coverage in Ireland, but with a global outlook as well. She writes that books are ‘magical doorways’ for children, and she canvasses the opinions of authors Shane Hegarty, Sinead O’Hart and Sarah Webb in order to delve more deeply into the questions at hand. Interestingly, she points out the genuine difference that national coverage made for her when her book was featured on the SwipeTV Children’s Book Club on RTE2, a national TV station: ‘I received a flurry of emails from children from all over the country during the week after it aired – so there’s no doubt in my mind that media coverage has a positive impact.’

Finally, children’s book enthusiasts and those who work in the publishing industry will have noticed Simon Cowell’s recent, rather tactless comments about kids’ books. Bookseller Katie Clapham of Storytellers, Inc, a book shop in St-Annes-on-Sea, wondered whether Cowell’s newfound interest in children’s books could lead him to support #CoverKidsBooks.

We’re sure you’ll agree that’s unlikely, given his dismissive comments… yet isn’t this even more compelling evidence that children’s books need greater coverage in the national media? If those outside of children’s publishing were presented on a daily basis with the huge range of gorgeous, enticing kids’ books currently out there, it would be much, much harder for people like Simon Cowell to hold these ignorant views.

A huge thank you to everyone who’s been tweeting, blogging, vlogging, facebooking, and talking with such enthusiasm in support of #CoverKidsBooks. The wonderful progress we’ve seen in this post shows it’s really worthwhile. But there’s a huge amount more to do if we’re going to get anywhere near closing that gap between the 3% of coverage children’s books get in national media, and the 33% of the book market they make up.

So keep up the good work!

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