“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “

Pullman Philip 2

Wise words from Philip Pullman, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005:

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.

But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.

It’s true that some people grow up never encountering art of any kind, and are perfectly happy and live good and valuable lives, and in whose homes there are no books, and they don’t care much for pictures, and they can’t see the point of music. Well, that’s fine. I know people like that. They are good neighbours and useful citizens.

But other people, at some stage in their childhood or their youth, or maybe even their old age, come across something of a kind they’ve never dreamed of before. It is as alien to them as the dark side of the moon. But one day they hear a voice on the radio reading a poem, or they pass by a house with an open window where someone is playing the piano, or they see a poster of a particular painting on someone’s wall, and it strikes them a blow so hard and yet so gentle that they feel dizzy. Nothing prepared them for this. They suddenly realise that they’re filled with a hunger, though they had no idea of that just a minute ago; a hunger for something so sweet and so delicious that it almost breaks their heart. They almost cry, they feel sad and happy and alone and welcomed by this utterly new and strange experience, and they’re desperate to listen closer to the radio, they linger outside the window, they can’t take their eyes off the poster. They wanted this, they needed this as a starving person needs food, and they never knew. They had no idea.

That is what it’s like for a child who does need music or pictures or poetry to come across it by chance. If it weren’t for that chance, they might never have met it, and might have passed their whole lives in a state of cultural starvation without knowing it.

The effects of cultural starvation are not dramatic and swift. They’re not so easily visible.

And, as I say, some people, good people, kind friends and helpful citizens, just never experience it; they’re perfectly fulfilled without it. If all the books and all the music and all the paintings in the world were to disappear overnight, they wouldn’t feel any the worse; they wouldn’t even notice.

But that hunger exists in many children, and often it is never satisfied because it has never been awakened. Many children in every part of the world are starved for something that feeds and nourishes their soul in a way that nothing else ever could or ever would.

We say, correctly, that every child has a right to food and shelter, to education, to medical treatment, and so on. We must understand that every child has a right to the experience of culture. We must fully understand that without stories and poems and pictures and music, children will starve.

Written by Philip Pullman for the tenth anniversary of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2012. More from Philip Pullman here.

89 Responses to ““Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “”

  1. Mariana Laxague Says:

    Reblogged this on Il Blog dell'Albero di Antonia.

  2. Läs Philip Pullmans ord | Läsambassadören Says:

    […] Här!  […]

  3. Raquel Redmond Says:

    Congratulations, hope parents and Early Childhood Teachers read this. That wonderful feeling of wanting to engage in art, music and poetry is the creativity we all have in our inner self but it hasn’t been developed.

  4. rcrnkovich831 Says:

    Reblogged this on Valuing Art and commented:
    An exceptional piece by an exceptional man. I share in this opinion completely.

  5. Maria lemos Says:

    So so true. Each word .

  6. Tripti Says:

    Very truly said…children do need stories and art and music and poems for their complete nourishment…The world of poems and stories help them become creative or maybe good visionaries…The art and music introduce them with themselves…
    They say books are man’s best friends and the music his soul’s…
    I, myself, feel the void of not becoming an expert in any of these four areas but I have found a way out..I am living my dream with my son and it’s truly amazing…

  7. melissacreate Says:

    A timely article reminding us that stories, poems and art should be part of every childhood. There are so many fantastic children’s stories being published every year, we just need more a society push to spread access to those stories.

  8. Jeanette Clawson Says:

    Reblogged this on lunanista and commented:
    I have never reblogged a post, but this one really resonates with me.

  9. Things to do for Xmas when you’re with kids – zmax mama Says:

    […] time with your children. Do silly stuff. Do nice stuff. Do arty stuff. There is a whole world of non-tangible treasures you can give to your […]

  10. Bailey Gillespie Says:

    LOVE. Awakening that hunger is one of the most beautiful things we can do — for it also awakens our sense of wonder for the world and for God.

  11. Weekly Reader 34: Back to the Real World Edition | Tangerine Wallpaper Says:

    […] Children Need Art and Stories and Poems and Music as Much as They Need Love and Food and Fresh Air a… […]

  12. Fredrik Engstrom Says:

    I agree with this, it is verry ovious diden`t reflect on that it as inportant as food before though!

  13. A Conversation with Hannah Wang – er|4|schen Says:

    […] the success of restored arts programs in schools with high populations of homeless children or that cultural deprivation is actually harmful to a child’s development, as well as numerous studies about arts effects on the brain. In fact, there’s a neat program […]

  14. KL Caley Says:

    Reblogged this on new2writing and commented:
    Read something similar by another WordPress blogger yesterday too. All writers saying the same thing – children need stories.

  15. Τα παιδιά χρειάζονται τέχνες και ιστορίες και… – yourTuTors Says:

    […] Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award/Μετάφραση: The Whole […]

  16. Veronica lumumba Says:

    I really agree to what has been said.The art, poem and the culture where the child comes from identifies him and exposes them to variety of things when they grow up.

  17. Pat Graham Says:

    I couldn’t agree more but would like to add that children and adults with learning disabilities, particularly those with severe learning disabilities also benefit enormously from exposure to the arts. However even though their need is often greater than their counterparts without disability the opportunities to be involved in the arts are significantly less, if at all. Storytelling, picture books, hands on art, music, drama and many other artistic pursuits are avenues through which people with learning disability can enjoy a more stimulating lifestyle, communicate more effectively, have more fun and even be educated. The latter is of such importance as there is little if any lifelong learning for people with severe learning disability when In fact they have much greater need of it than those who have no such disability. If only there was an awareness of the advantages of the involvement of these people in the arts, a willingness to consider the manifold benefits and just a little bit of funding.

  18. Napoleon Nalcot Says:

    A child’s brain is more than capable of concentrating intensely, searching and scanning everything he or she comes in contact with in order to get information and meaning. If this special ability of a child to pay attention is left undeveloped or not nurtured from day one, there would be a deficiency disorder for that particular thing that should have been supplemented in the first place. Exposing our children to art, stories, poems, and music is very important. It is a food for their developing brain.

  19. Ellie Says:

    I do agree though also dance tennis sport and MOST OF ALL CONSISTENT LOVE seen by a Belgium tennis coach Steve Verkouter sharing his passion for tennis< with love in it 🙂 , to the refugees children in Dunkirk giving them some semblance of childhood 🙂

  20. Megi Says:

    Reblogged this on HappyNest in America.

  21. lisa Says:

    Can I just say your article stinks absolute middle class and snobbery and complete hate of the working class. Who you view as sub human creatures eho don’t value art and the fine things of life. In your mind they eat sleep excrete in that order. Culturaly starved a phrase to describe the working class who are beneath you. You feel sorry for their offsprings that you want them to experience middle class luxuries such as the theatre and art galleries like missionarys that went to Africa to preach the gospel to the heathens.

    • Ian Simkin Says:

      Lisa, you have completely missed the point.

    • Josh Says:

      Read it again from the top, Lisa. Try to read it without the bias you brought to your first reading. Books and music and posters and radio and so on, can be, and are, experienced by all classes. The point is that children should given, as a right, the opportunity to have these experiences with culture, many which can already be had for free (see: Libraries), such that, should there be some greater call to create works of art lurking in their bones, they will see it awakened and further enrich our shared culture. Nourish the mind, body, and soul of all of our children — how can you be angry about something so lovely?

    • Teddy Roosevelt-Sierra Says:

      Lisa, sorry, but art in all its expressions can be found free, radio, tv , public libraries,museums, community centers.
      You will find it if you want it

  22. Diana Says:

    Y los adultos también =) lo necesitamos

  23. Samuel De Lemos Says:

    Reblogged this on My Words and commented:
    Agreed, cultural education is imperative and necessary for a well rounded upbringing.

  24. devarya Says:

    Reblogged this on devarya.

  25. G.W. Sophia, Sophiology Says:

    Reblogged this on PROMISED LAND and commented:
    “Many children in every part of the world are starved for something that feeds and nourishes their soul in a way that nothing else ever could or ever would.”

  26. Tho Loves Food Says:

    Reblogged this on Petit Hanoian.

  27. Mercurial Wombat Says:

    Reblogged this on Thoughts & Ideas and commented:
    “But other people, at some stage in their childhood or their youth, or maybe even their old age, come across something of a kind they’ve never dreamed of before. It is as alien to them as the dark side of the moon…Nothing prepared them for this. They suddenly realise that they’re filled with a hunger, though they had no idea of that just a minute ago; a hunger for something so sweet and so delicious that it almost breaks their heart…They wanted this, they needed this as a starving person needs food, and they never knew. They had no idea.”

    – Philip Pullman

  28. solaris1274 Says:

    Reblogged this on dosalpelo.

  29. 1marylou Says:

    Wonderful words.

  30. Minneapolis Superintendent Search Rushes to a Potential Close | Bright Light Small City Says:

    […] –Author Phillip Pullman, 2012 […]

  31. secularhomeschoollife Says:

    Reblogged this on Secular Homeschooling My Owlet and commented:
    The importance of artistic beauty.

  32. Judy Says:

    Reblogged this on judithwill56 and commented:
    Such truth here. Every child needs their souls nourished

  33. elishagabriel Says:

    Reblogged this on Elisha Gabriel and commented:
    Mazlo’s hierarchy of needs should be revised. The inner fire needs to be stoked through the imagination too.

  34. “Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “ | CENmag Says:

    […] Story by: Philip Pullman Source: https://astridlindgrenmemorialaward.wordpress.com […]

  35. Audrey Nowitz Says:

    Very intelligent piece of writing. BUT if theres no entichment at home its up to schools to provide it. Thats why i think king david victory park is an incredable school. Rugby players ( whatever tbats supposed to make you ) are involved in drama. Theatre. Back stage experiences. Dancing in Fiddler on the Roof, man, that scool has my back.!!!

  36. Sathyanarayana Murthy Says:

    There’s no gain saying that finer sensibilities grow in a human being only through exposure to art in one form or the other. Those who are deprived of an artistic upbringing remain permanently debilitated, their other intellectual attainments not withstanding. Sad but true!

  37. Φίλιπ Πούλμαν: “Τα παιδιά χρειάζονται τέχνη και ιστορίες και ποιήματα και μουσική όσο χρειάζονται αγάπη και φαγητό και καθαρό αέρα και παι Says:

    […] και μουσική, τα παιδιά θα πεινάσουν.  Πηγή: Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award/Μετάφραση: The Whole […]

  38. Dayne Sislen, Children's Book Illustrator Says:

    Reblogged this on Dayne Sislen Illustration and commented:
    It’s important to exposed kids to reading, poetry and music as part of culture. It expands their minds, they need to know there is more in the world than their little corner. Phillip Pullman says it so much better.

  39. Halla Ingimars Says:

    Thank you!

  40. Frances Macaulay Forde Says:

    Reblogged this on Perth Words… exploring possibilities. and commented:
    “Children need art & stories & poems and music, as much as they need love…”

  41. prateeksha sharma Says:

    Reblogged this on Parts That Make Me Whole and commented:
    This is an interesting bit of writing, in which the author Philip Pullman touches upon the significance of aesthetic education for the growing mind of children. Am sharing for my own reference later.

  42. Dr Nutakki Sateesh Says:

    Sir
    Right to Life includes comprehensive growth of ever child it includes physical and mental health of children. You explained it very well.

  43. Φίλιπ Πούλμαν: “Τα παιδιά χρειάζονται τέχνη και ιστορίες και ποιήματα και μουσική όσο χρειάζονται αγάπη και φαγητό και καθαρό αέρα και παι Says:

    […] Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award/Μετάφραση: The Whole […]

  44. rbeckley58 Says:

    To my working class family books, art and music were always important. We even learned French while waiting at the laudramat, and never ate out to save money for beauty and inspiration. At the same time, I know well-to-do families that don’t bother with culture at all. A multifaceted life doesn’t correlate 100% with class.

  45. Riana Says:

    I agree. Absolutely and profoundly true. Beauty and art in whatever form nourish the soul like nothing else. But more than that, cultural treaures foster the resilience that is needed to carry us in times of hardship. Please, please read or watch the YouTube video of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore. This short movie and book came about as a result of having observed the wonderful therapeutic value books and reading had on children in shelters after Hurricane Katrina. There would be fewer drug addicts if children / people found a refuge in stories, in art, in beauty, in nature.

  46. whirlyred Says:

    Reblogged this on Whirly Red Writing.

  47. Victoria Robinson Says:

    Wow such insight and passion and so very true.

  48. Hasmik Isaghulyan Says:

    That’s true !

  49. Maureen Prewitt Says:

    This song about the connection between human wholeness and art:

    “Look on beauty to undo me
    To unite my disparate parts
    To receive me and reweave me
    Knit my hands to head to heart”

  50. zeinab ayoub Says:

    I can`t imagine the world without music or books cuz the world full of war and capitalism so those things make the world better

  51. Moens Michelle Says:

    Thanks Philip Pullman!

  52. Birgit Speulman Says:

    Reblogged this on AlleskAn and commented:
    Hoe belangrijk is cultuur voor kinderen? Philip Pullman (winnaar van de Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award) vindt dat ieder kind recht heeft op cultuurervaringen: “We must fully understand that without stories and poems and pictures and music, children will starve.”

  53. Marvin Says:

    I think we are witnessing some of the effects of children growing up with cultural starvation in the world today. If those on lower incomes have restricted access to culture, the social consequences can be immense. The effects can perhaps be more profound than we realise. People without a developed imagination can lack empathy or compassion for others. People not exposed to art can fail to question, think abstractedly or properly investigate and test their own feelings and beliefs. Art and culture isn’t something that’s nice to experience, it’s presence (or lack of presence) in our lives can shape our whole world.

  54. Creative Life Institute Says:

    Reblogged this on Autoethnography and commented:
    Love Pullman! Absolute genius.

  55. L&B Counseling, PLLC Says:

    I think visual art is a great part of learning culture

  56. Les enfants ont besoin d'art et d'histoires et de poèmes... Says:

    […] à cette occasion, il a plaidé en faveur des enfants ; quelques mots que nous trouvons en anglais ICI. Je vous laisse découvrir ses paroles, ou plutôt ses mots, que je vous ait traduits afin de […]

  57. VANDANA KANORIA Says:

    Beautifully written and I believe in it fully.

  58. Linda Wilson Says:

    I can vouch for all…. a painting, sculpture, story can reduce me to tears and excitement.

  59. TheKibblingProject Says:

    Reblogged this on TheKibblingProject.

  60. Amy Hemmens Says:

    Outstanding article and I enjoyed to returning to my childhood, which was filled with music, poetry and art. It has made such a lovely impact on my life over the years and can not imagine not sharing these passions with others. Thank you for the reminders of being a part of these wonderful pieces of life.

  61. Barnet behøver ro til kunstnerisk utvikling | Kunst bevegel sen Says:

    […] https://astridlindgrenmemorialaward.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/children-need-art-and-stories-and-poems&#8230; […]

  62. Amalia Jarosi Says:

    Agree…my best memories are when my Mom laid with me in bed and recited poetry from memory…I mean, Epic long poems…My imagination was on fire…I loved those times, as she spoke i was transformed in to other worlds…:)

  63. Lori Mills Says:

    In my Embodyoga Teacher Training course, when resting in savasana after the poses, I love hearing my teacher’s voice (Karen Miscall-Bannon) telling the mythological stories from Hindu philosohy about the antics of the spirited characters in their creation stories. No matter what our age, to lie on one’s mat covered by a warm blanket in the safety of the yoga studio is so delighful. It is never too late to experience this by creatively envision it in one’s mind or to be the storyteller and gift this experience to another child or kid-at-heart. Sharing stories enriches brains and nurtures hearts.

  64. Karina Magaña Says:

    I loved this article. It’s very true. By the way, I am a translator and I would like to translate this article to Spanish. Let me know if you’re interested. I’d do it for fee.

  65. Akwmuse Says:

    And there are also traditional arts and music and oratory from other cultures, different than books or paintings on the wall, but filling those same needs.

  66. Alleen Cater Says:

    Wonderful, beautiful article, masterfully stated. Going off on a bit of a tangent here, so naysayers can load your word-cannons: imho, cursive is one way for children to explore and search for a way of identifying and presenting themselves to the world. Does anyone remember the learning process of cursive, where you had a model handwriting as a suggestion, maybe to trace/emulate? How many people maintained that ‘copy’ without trying out other handwriting styles? I submit that handwriting is a form of artistic self expression, and that not teaching cursive in schools is a disservice to children; each child should be encouraged to pick up a pencil/pen and experiment, doodle, discover an individual style, hopefully legible. Gaining confidence from that experience can enhance enjoyment and understanding of other forms of art. My remarks are in no way intended to diminish the point of the very fine article.

  67. Douglas Thorburn Says:

    Personally is all I can comment on in the spirit of discovery. I was shown at home and in school and church, Art, Music, Poetry was everywhere in society in Toronto and as radio spread via that newfangled transistor thing making it so you could carry it around with you. Then 8-tracks , stereo , fm .. like its been a long time since there was isolation from these things. Again going personally, I, for as long as I can remember had my taste in these things. Did the school assignments adequately but with only minor passion. Most of my friends had no real passion for these things until a more mature mind became one of those ”’ others ”’ he spoke about. Now with the internet globally spreading. Its readily available to just about everyone that develops that passion. Can’t afford those ” star ” art concerts live but its now on youtube real soon. If the passion for art/music/poetry enlightens… well we can only dream that everyone feels it …. but reality is , those good neighbours you speak of are not just a few. And again , personally , my thinking I suck doing various forms of art at various stages in my life was and is a constant hurdle. My taste varies and most of my friends somehow fit into similar taste but not always into the taste of each other. … I ramble. What was my point? Children need to have it available at their own pace and that pace will most often relate to their piers. Similar to the pier bonding and life developing of sports. The Arts should have equal billing so to speak but at present seem way behind in public/private sponsorship and involvement. Go Buckeyes. …. Tear down the wall … and she’s buying a stairway to heaven. Like nobody is isolated anymore. Encourage art’s creation and enjoyment by creating and enjoying yourself. The children will see that and open up to it themselves a little quicker if they are into it. Just don’t expect them all to be into it and some for some reason or another lash out at it. Let’s go Blue Jays. .. Why?, Why not?

  68. Rajasree Nambiar Says:

    It’s beautiful. I too believe in children growing up listening, seeing and experiencing the environment around. Been always with Pre schoolers and Primary levels and seen the enthusiasm when exposed to varied culture. Parents and facilitators need to be made aware of these strategies.

  69. Pullman on the importance of culture – STORYmin.es Says:

    […] These are the words written by Philip Pullman for the tenth anniversary of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2… […]

  70. Paula Says:

    Words of wisdom. However for many parents music and art lessons are financially beyond their reach. It is wonderful now that schools do offer cultural experiences to children. Music and art are “therapeutic” for children, adults, the elderly. I work in aged care and have seen the transforming power of music especially for those with dementia. It is like “food” for their souls!

  71. silvia faregna Says:

    Bellissimo e molto vero!

  72. sugatohazra Says:

    Reblogged this on Parallel Thoughts.

  73. kenichi Hase Says:

    I also came across poems on children. Can now also write poetry and are protected by focusing the mind.

  74. Anne Maureen Scarff Says:

    Yes, yes yes and again yes.

  75. Teddy Roosevelt-Sierra Says:

    Excellent article. Thank you

  76. “Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “ | Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award | Lim e dintorni Says:

    […] Sorgente: “Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh ai… […]

  77. Joan Says:

    It feeds a hunger in the soul that allows the entire being to grow and flourish in a way that they couldn’t have done otherwise. Having it all in the background from a young age is such a blessing; however it can be taken for granted until it is missing. If someone is discovering it for the first time… oh my!!! The world is brand new again! Our schools have already been cutting these programs, so we need to try to keep what we can for our kids.

  78. fishpoet1 Says:

    Poignant, beautiful and sad that we have to draw attention to the presence of art, which is as natural as breathing for many people.

  79. haydnseancrespan Says:

    Reblogged this on haydnseancrespan.

  80. Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-09-2017 | The Author Chronicles Says:

    […] Philip Pullman asserts that “children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air a….” […]

  81. kiranchaturvedi Says:

    Reblogged this on Birdsong & Beyond. and commented:
    How beautifully and simply Pullman puts this need for art in life.

    “It’s true that some people grow up never encountering art of any kind, and are perfectly happy and live good and valuable lives… Well, that’s fine. I know people like that. They are good neighbours and useful citizens.

    But other people, at some stage in their childhood or their youth, or maybe even their old age, come across something of a kind they’ve never dreamed of before…Nothing prepared them for this. They suddenly realise that they’re filled with a hunger, though they had no idea of that just a minute ago; … it almost breaks their heart. … welcomed by this utterly new and strange experience …they needed this as a starving person needs food, and they never knew. They had no idea.

    That is what it’s like for a child who does need music or pictures or poetry to come across it by chance. “

  82. “Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “ | The Key to the Imaginary Door Says:

    […] https://astridlindgrenmemorialaward.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/children-need-art-and-stories-and-poems&#8230; […]

  83. Ewa Says:

    Absolutely agree because via art or poem they can express themselves. they can describe their feelings at times perhaps nobody there to listen. They can develope their imagination and get inspired by different stories rhymes characters. They can than see the world the colours in changing seasons.

  84. Pekka Termonen Says:

    Thank You! So true. I am a retired librarian. When working I never got tired of the bright and happy eyes of children checking out a stack of books.

  85. Approaching Teaching: Week of March 19, 2017 | Approaching Teaching @ AISK Says:

    […] feeds and nourishes their soul in a way that nothing else ever could or ever would. Read more in this statement from award-winning author, Philip […]

  86. Natasha Says:

    What can I do?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: