In conjunction with the award ceremony for the 2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Sweden’s Minister for Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, answered a few questions about her views on literature for children and young people.
Why is it important to have a prize for children’s and young people’s literature?
“A prize like this puts the spotlight on authors of works for children and young people and hopefully encourages reading. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is also the world’s biggest prize for children’s books. For me, the right of children and young people to culture is one of the most important issues of cultural policy. Whatever their background, all children should be able to access professional culture, and literature in particular is crucial in helping us develop as people.”
What is the government doing to encourage children and young people to read?
“We need to do even more to promote literacy. But financial support for children’s literacy has almost doubled since 2006. In schools, there has been a reading, writing and arithmetic drive for younger children in particular, with a budget of up to SEK 1.5 billion. The Schools Act now also requires every school to have a library.
“The Literature Commission, which will report its findings in the autumn, has been tasked with studying literacy among children and young people and proposing measures to increase reading. We also have a special literacy ambassador for children’s and young people’s literature, author Johan Unenge, who tours the schools.”
What do you think about the future of books?
“The written word has a unique capacity to touch the reader’s innermost feelings and imagination in a way that no other media can match. You can also take a book at your own pace and tempo. Although traditional books will increasingly be found on e-readers instead of in printed form, I am optimistic about the future of books, and of storytelling. I would also like to see all school pupils start the day with half an hour of reading literature from their very first year.”