CBI | CLÉ Children’s Books Forum

In the aftermath of an interesting morning at the Dublin Book Festival - the CBI/CLÉ forum this time round was more a presentation on what actions should come next. There is a huge level of agreement - a first according to Seamus Cashman (who chaired the forum) - and Children’s Books Ireland, in the guise of Mags Walsh, have undertaken to pull together a group that will put in action a number of points and plans, including:

  • Establish a children’s books laureate - as a key figure for media/public events, an opportunity to celebrate an author and as a practical partnership for all organisations involved in Children’s Books.
  • Prepare a policy submission to ALL relevant government departments (including Education, Environment, Arts, Sport and Tourism as well as the Office of the Minister for Children).
  • Create stronger links with media outlets
  • Increase the profile of Irish authors/illustrators
  • Increase support to Irish publishing for Children
  • Create more opportunities for children to engage with books
  • and to create more opportunities to support authors/illustrators.

So what else was talked about?

Michael O’Brien made a presentation on the harsh realities facing Irish publishers and Children’s Literature - Michael reckons that:

  • Cost is an issue in publishing children’s books - they need to be almost half the price of adult titles in order to be bought.
  • Booksellers don’t give over enough floor space to Children’s Books
  • There are cultural difficulties - in that the market is UK dominated.

Siobhán Parkinson pointed out the error in defining Children’s Literature as a genre - it is an age group that includes titles of all genres. She also encouraged the use of ‘children’s literature‘ over ‘children’s books‘ in order to break perceptions and raised the scandalous news that ALL schools don’t have libraries - and that those that do have had the funding cut entirely. Finally that the tax exemption for Irish artists cannot be abolished - without writers there would be no books.

Sarah Bannon, head of Literature at the Arts Council, acknowledged that the Arts Council are constantly looking at value for money. She agreed with the huge consensus in the sector and commented on the goodwill, openness and agreement in children’s literature. There is an opportunity to learn from initiatives in other EU countries - specifically Philip Pullmans statement that “Children’s literature firmly belongs in the general field of books.” - and to develop partnerships with RTÉ, Google and libraries.

The forum were encouraged to go away from the meeting to make noise. For instance - there was no public outcry after the school library funding was cut. No letters to papers, union complaints, arms/hands/legs locked to gates, no ministers being egged - and worse - little media coverage of the story. Everyone agreed this morning that the cut was scandalous but there was little noise about it. So maybe not egg a minister or cuff yourself to a building but why not write to a politician/newspaper? “Damn it - do it” - as one Jane O’Hanlon said this morning.

Other things I came away with from today… direct from my notebook:

  • Children’s Literature - and the literature sector in general - all agree that there is a need for a lobby group. Now it just has to happen - hopefully today will be the beginning of it.
  • Mercier Press have plans to bring back many of the Children’s Press titles - including Sarah Webb’s cook book!
  • Joe O’Brien has a sequel to Little Croker out this summer.
  • Stephanie Meyer kept most bookshops afloat in January and February.
  • Michael O’Brien is not as scary in person as I previously thought - and he has lovely hair.

Notes from the last forum are here - or you can read the twitter thread from this morning - and I will upload the updated policy/action plan once it has been redrafted.

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Written by david. in: childrens books | Tags:

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  • [...] things to say in the wake of Arts Council meetings about Children’s Literature and the recent seminars. There has been a lot of talk about what is needed and it is great to read Niamh’s passionate [...]

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