Posts Tagged ‘Swedish Arts Council’

Reading promotion project Pause – you and a book

September 26, 2014

With cool music and daredevil movements by three young free runners, the reading promotion campaign Pause – you and a book started yesterday at the Göteborg Book Fair. Author and skateboarder Johan Unenge, also known as a cartoonist and Sweden’s first National Ambassador for Reading, is Pause’s “reading coach”:

– The world of sports is a perfect arena for reaching young people. Here, you find commitment from children, parents and coaches, says Johan Unenge.

Johan Unenge and Lotta Brilioth Biörnstad at Ung scen at Göteborg Book Fair.

Johan Unenge and Lotta Brilioth Biörnstad at Ung scen at Göteborg Book Fair.

Pause is an effort to get more young athletes to read books during their spare time. All over Sweden sports clubs and libraries are working together to improve young people appetite for reading. The initiative comes from the sports movement and the Swedish Arts Council. Johan Unenge:

– The goal is to reverse today’s negative trend, and to give young people a pause – a pause that gives them a richer language, a better reading comprehension and a wider world.

Johan Unenge will be blogging on the Pause web and travelling around the country to inform, pep and spread knowledge about the project. The hub in this reading promotion project however, are the sports leaders. Librarians and parents becomes important as supporters. A sports club wanting to join the Pause project choose what level they want to add books into their activities. To contact the nearest library could be the first step and in time perhaps the club or municipality wants to launch a major long-term project.

Victoria Caliber, Johan Unenge and Lotta Brilioth Biörnstad from the Swedish Arts Council.

Victoria Caliber, Johan Unenge and Lotta Brilioth Biörnstad from the Swedish Arts Council.

There are already several sports and reading promotion projects going on in Sweden, and Victoria Caliber from Läsmuskler (“Reading muscles) in Ulricehamn explains how they work with several different sports. They have recently appointed a “stall for reading” at a riding school, they’ve got comfortable and cosy reading pouffes in the shape of footballs, they run a caravan filled with books to football games, and help sports clubs to select books and audio books.

– Our experience is that there is a great demand for books in the sports world, they are appreciated by the athletes but also by parents and siblings, says Victoria Kleiber.

Written by Cecilia Eriksson, Swedish Arts Council

Bok och Bibliotek 2014, LŠssatsningen Paus

Pause 1

Barbro Lindgren to Göteborg Book Fair

June 18, 2014
Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

Meet Barbro Lindgren at the Göteborg Book Fair in Gothenburg. On Thursday, September 25, she participates in a seminar about imagination and the conditions of freedom and writing with jury member Maria Lassén-Seger, critic of children’s literature and librarian at Åbo Academy University. She will also participate in a number of short public talks on Ung scen (Young Stage) and will visit other exhibitor’s stands at the fair in the program for Thursday.

The laureate’s participation is part of the Swedish Arts Council’s commitment to a program with focus on children’s and young adult literature and reading promotion. Under the theme Children’s Right to Culture workshops, exhibitions and lectures are arranged at Ung scen (Young Stage) in Hall A at the book fair.

A detailed program for Barbro Lindgren’s participation will be published on the ALMA web in September.

Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

Adult Power and the Child Perspective

April 5, 2014

What is the cultural life of children and young people like today? Who makes the choices, who creates – and who finds themselves on the outside, looking in? On April 3-4, a conference on children’s culture in Umeå, organized by the Swedish Arts Council, addressed these questions. Karin Helander, professor of drama and head of the Centre for the Studies of Children’s Culture at Stockholm University, spoke on adult power and the child perspective:

Karin Helander

Karin Helander

Typically, we define children by what they are not: they are not adults. For the past twenty years, childhood researchers have looked at both children and adults using the concepts of “human becoming” and “human being.” Initially, they saw adults as “beings”: complete, finished people and citizens. Children were “becomings”: people and citizens in the making, moving toward completion; a development zone, lacking some critical element.

In the 1990s, this view changed. Children became “beings” too – citizens and people in their own right, with their own skills and abilities. Later, the picture was refined again. Children and adults were now both “beings” and “becomings”—competent, but still developing, citizens. Adulthood, just like childhood, was not static but variable.

Childhood researchers have stressed the fact that power, resources and decisions lie in the hands of adults. The professional production of culture and art is a prime example. Here, power resides almost entirely in the adult world. The grown-ups are in charge—we decide what gets produced and what gets consumed. Of course we often do so with the best of intentions, following our own ideas about children’s wellbeing.

The concept of a child perspective is frequently invoked; less frequently is it defined or problematized. In the field of children’s culture, we often make a distinction between a child perspective and a child’s perspective. A child perspective is an adult intention to focus on and draw attention to children’s circumstances. A child’s perspective involves trying to capture children’s experiences and perceptions, by recognizing them as valuable informants and listening to their voices.

The concept of the child perspective is also the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the articles there that address the welfare of children and their right to access culture and the arts, as well as their right to freedom of expression and to be heard on issues that affect them, according to age and maturity.

The meaning of children’s culture itself is also continually being discussed and redefined. According to one common definition, it includes:

– cultural products made by adults for children (children’s literature, children’s film)

– culture with children (an example is Swedish municipal schools for music and arts, kulturskolor)

– children’s culture, or culture by children (such as children’s play and children’s picture making)

The boundaries here are fluid and we could identify further distinctions or places where the categories overlap. In general, however, children’s culture is strongly colored by the adult world: adults’ interpretative prerogative, their values and norms. Professionally produced culture for children originates with adults and carries their intentions: its purpose is often educative, and/or it intends to entertain and amuse, and/or it is designed as a high-quality artistic statement. We might also expand children’s culture to include young adult art and literature, also produced by adults, which children readily partake of.

Author Ulf Stark has raised the issue of quality in children’s literature, asking questions like:

– Do you have to be extra good to be a good children’s author?

– Should a children’s book make children happy and content – and get them to sleep at night as fast as possible?

– Is reading a literary text different from other reading?

– Is it a good idea to mark books so we can see from the outside whether they’re easy or hard?

– Do we really understand what “understanding” means?

– If children read bad books, is that a good thing?

– Demanding less, leveling out the language – a nifty prescription for improving reading skills? Or perhaps not? Or is it?

Stark also questions the notion of reading comprehension, that we need to understand what we read: “Some of the poems that have meant the most to me, I’ve never really understood. I don’t even always understand what I write myself. Requiring us to understand things makes us seize up. Reading is embracing the unknown.”

And here I would like to add a quotation from another author, though she usually writes for adults: Kristina Lugn, whose character Axel concludes the play Hjälp sökes (Help needed) with these words: “In my opinion, understanding is for weaklings. People have always been, and should remain, a mystery.”

Conference on Children’s Culture

January 20, 2014
Workshop for Children during the 2011 Award week. Photo: Stefan Tell

Workshop for Children during the 2011 Award week. Photo: Stefan Tell

Coming up on April 3-4: conference on Children’s Culture arranged by the Swedish Arts Council and centres for children’s culture in Sweden. For two days discussions on topics on children’s and youth culture of today are highlighted. Is the greatness of children’s culture a myth? What does it mean working strategically with children’s culture?

Among the speakers are Patrice Baldwin, former Director of the International Drama Theatre and Education Association, IDEA, Prof. Johan Söderman  from Malmö University and Prof. Karin Helander, Director of the Center of the Studies for Children’s Culture at Stockholm University.

The location is Umeå, this year’s European capital of culture. More information will follow shortly at the Swedish Arts Council’s web, link here.

Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

Reflections from Göteborg Book Fair by guest blogger Lotta Brilioth

September 28, 2013

We asked Lotta Brilioth Biörnstad, coordinator for children’s culture at the Swedish Arts Council, to share some of her reflections from the book fair:

During the last days of September literature is celebrated at the Göteborg Book Fair. The first two days most of the visitors are librarians, authors, policymakers, publishers and other advocates for literature. For me, going there is like being a kid again, with my own toy store. So many interesting seminars, so many good news (yes, there are problems too), so many smart, hardworking, competent people looking for new, wonderful children’s books and for useful methods to make children read.

Yesterday the Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, presented a government bill on literature. Among other things it proposes a new commission for the Arts Council to promote childrens literature “on a national, strategic, level”. Childrens’ reading is really on the agenda these days. Like every other European country we are worried about the fact that the number of poor readers is increasing. Especially teenage boys read less. During the last two days I have listened to scholars, teachers, authors and librarians adressing the problem. A depressing thing is a new investigation that shows that many teachers read very little, or not at all. Librarians, on the contrary, read much more than the average citizen. Even children read quite a lot, but a great part of it is short texts on the internet, on the mobile phone, while playing computer games.

We need to make teachers read, organize modern school libraries, with professional librarians, promote cooperation between public libraries and schools and, of course, make sure that all those fantastic books reach the children. One of the solutions is to start seeing new media as a useful tool instead of a threat to “real” books. But, personally, I’m old fashioned enough to prefer paper books. Do I need to say that my suitcase was stuffed with books, when I left Gothenburg to take the train back to Stockholm. I will spend the rest of the weekend curled up in the sofa, traveling only in my mind.

Lotta Brilioth Biörnstad
Coordinator for children’s culture
Swedish Arts Council

Signe Westin from the Swedish Arts Council with Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth

Signe Westin from the Swedish Arts Council with Minister for Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth

Work in progress

August 21, 2013
Cecilia Eriksson, Swedish Arts Council, Helen Sigeland and David Nygård, ALMA, Sara Duell and Minja Smajic from jobbajobba.

Cecilia Eriksson, Swedish Arts Council, Helen Sigeland and David Nygård, ALMA, Aleksandra Stratimirovic and Minja Smajic from jobbajobba.

Five weeks to go before  the opening of Göteborg Book Fair. As you can see, thinking caps are on during this morning’s production meeting with creatives from design studio JobbaJobba. Mission: to create visual design for this year’s stand for the Swedish Arts Council and ALMA. How will ALMA promote this year’s laureate Isol? Will there be rocking chairs? The result will be posted on this blog on September 26.

Intense planning for the Swedish participation in Bologna

February 8, 2013

Sweden will be guest of honor at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March. As guest of honour, Sweden will present a major exhibition on contemporary Swedish illustration, among many other things. We caught project manager at the Swedish Arts Council, Eva Ottosson, between two meetings.

Hi Eva, tell us about the program in Bologna!

We will make Bologna boil with Swedish activities, both at the Fair and in Bologna town. Under our theme Children’s right to Culture, we will present authors, illustrators and other artists.

At the Fair we will present a large exhibition with Swedish contemporary illustrators, it will be impossible to miss, placed just at the entrance of the Fair at the Illustrators café.
The 31 illustrators are selected by a jury and range from debutants to world famous illustrators. In connection to the exhibition a catalogue will be presented. We also arrange the Swedish collective stand with publishers and other exhibitors and present vast program at all the scenes: illustrators café, authors café, digital café and translators café.

In Bologna town a number of local organizations do workshops, exhibitions, readings with a Swedish theme. You can see the full program on our website from mid February.
This program will be great!

Children’s right to culture, what does that mean?

That every child has the right to take part of culture in his or her own way. That culture is a thing of lust – it should never be a must. The artists we present in Bologna all have one thing in common – that they work from a child’s point of view.

What are your expectations?

To give Swedish literature and illustration a great big boost internationally. Me personally – I expect some hard work but also plenty of fun and interesting meetings.

More reading about the exhibition here.
More reading about Children’s right to culture here.

Eva Ottosson, Project Manager at the Swedish Arts Council.

Eva Ottosson, Project Manager at the Swedish Arts Council.

Everybody reads!

September 10, 2012

Photo: Swedish Arts Council

Several reports show that young people read less and less. One in four 15-year-old boys don´t reach a basic level of reading comprehension. Now, Swedish Arts Council and The National Agency for Education arrange a conference under the theme “Everybody reads!”, which will focus on how to create real change by building strong structures and collaborations that promote reading – for all children and young adults . On October 18-19, politicians, school directors, librarians and others, get together to listen to current research, share experiences and discuss how to reverse this negative trend.

Link to further reading (in Swedish) here.

New web site for inspiring projects

February 2, 2012

Preschool children are better at language through improvisation. One of the examples at

Swedish Arts Council has launched a top new national web site focusing on children’s and young adult culture. The aim is to inspire educators, officials and other kinds of cultural practitioners by showing good examples within various areas of art (from literature, architecture and art to museums, circus and play). Visit (an English version is coming up shortly). We like!

What’s on in Sweden with reference to literature? Well, the project Young storytellers give children between 6 and 19 the possibility to write their own book without the “unnecessary interference from adults”. Another bolla example.

Shaun Tan’s award lecture

May 28, 2011

Tuesday evening, the auditorium at Kulturhuset in Stockholm was filled to the last seat with an enthusiastic audience listening to Shaun Tan’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award lecture. Katti Hoflin welcomed the audience and Kennet Johansson, Director General of the Swedish Arts Council, welcomed Shaun Tan on stage.

Shaun Tan spoke about his work, his inspiration and his thoughts on stories and art. Below is an excerpt where Shaun Tan speaks about how great art asks well crafted questions rather than delivers answers:

“A good creative idea is little more than a hunch, an intuition that something meaningful is out there, over in the darkness beyond the houses, trees and power-lines. It can’t be spoken of directly: explanation or advice won’t work here. For an idea to really weave itself into the fabric of your memory, it must be experienced first-hand: you have to find your own resolution. This is what good literature offers the reader, and especially the young reader, encountering so much of this world for the first time, and children will happily respond to anything that respects their own insight, without telling them what to think.

The surrealism of my stories and pictures is partly a confession of ignorance, an acknowledgement that life is weird and mostly undiscovered. It’s okay to be uncertain, puzzled and not have all the answers.”

After the lecture, as Shaun Tan exited the auditorium, a very long line of readers were waiting to have their books signed. In the foyer, artist Tor Svae had made an installation inspired by Shaun Tan’s book The Arrival and his animated film The Lost Thing was screened.

For anyone who missed the event, the complete lecture will be broadcasted by UR Samtiden on 30th of May at 17.30. It will also be available on demand here.

All photos by Stefan Tell