Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Save Kids TV Campaign

A groundswell of political opinion is growing in support of the campaign aims and all three parties are engaged with it now. At the recent Showcomotion conference (2 – 4 July, Sheffield) Ed Vaizey MP Conservative Shadow Minister of Culture and Broadcasting gave a Keynote address. Visit www.showcommotion.com for further information. You can still lend your support to this campaign by signing up at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/kidstelevision/, increase the political pressure by emailing a letter drafted by PACT to your local MP: http://pact.co.uk/campaign/ or attend the Voice of the Listener and Viewer’s annual conference in November (see events listings).

Costa judges - children wanted!

Costa Children's Book Award - The search is on for three young people to be judges for this year's Costa Children's Book Award. This is an opportunity for anyone between the ages of 9 and 13 who needs to write a 200-word book review and submit it through the Costa website before midnight on 8 August. Jacqueline Wilson will select three winners who'll sit on the panel with adult judges and select the shortlist and winner of this year's award. They'll also attend the gala dinner and presentation next January and receive a £100 book token. If you know any disabled children who might be encouraged to enter, they should visit www.costabookawards.com/awards/young_judges_this_year.aspx

Nice work if you can get it


Random House Children’s Books and Thomas Cook are delighted to announce a joint initiative which will lead to the introduction of Reading Zones into all Thomas Cook resorts that feature club: KidsWORLD. The Reading Zones will be jam-packed with favourite books from leading children’s authors and they offer great chill out zones for children on holiday.

Tony Hopkins of Thomas Cook comments “This year is The National Year of Reading and it’s made us realise how vitally important it is for parents and their children to read books together. Our new Reading Zones will help encourage youngsters to pick up a book while they’re on holiday and enter a world of excitement and imagination. We want to help them understand that reading isn’t just something to be done at school – it can be enjoyed wherever you are.”

Managing Director of Random House Children’s Books Philippa Dickinson comments “We're delighted to be working with Thomas Cook to take books to places where children and their families are on their holidays. Holidays are a great time to read and this is an excellent way to encourage the habit of thinking of books alongside the sunscreen, the swimsuit and the towel.”

To mark this new and exciting relationship two author weeks will launch the project this summer. Authors Steve Cole and Janey Louise Jones will be taking their Astrosaurs and Princess Poppy events out to Thomas Cook holiday resorts in Majorca.

Steve Cole has just got back from his tour of the resorts on the island where he introduced over two hundred children to his Cows In Action and Astrosaurs books.

“I’ve been to some unlikely places with the Astrosaurs and Cows in Action but never expected to en-cow-nter them in Majorca! I’m delighted to be taking part in such an exciting new initiative –it’s a fantastic opportunity to bring young readers from all over the country together for some out-of-this-world holiday fun.”

Best-selling author Janey Louise Jones will take a trip to the Balearic Island this August where children will be treated to Princess Poppy party games and book readings from the author.

“I am delighted to be doing Princess Poppy events in Majorca for Thomas Cook this summer. It was an honour to be asked by such a reputable company and it will be lovely to see Princess Poppy fans in holiday mood!”

Childrens Illustrators in Bath

SWILL & Friends: An Exhibition of Children’s Book Illustration
by South West Illustrators and leading guest illustrators

Bath Central Library
The Podium, Bath

19th-28th September 2008

www.swillustrators.co.uk www.swillustrators.blogspot.com

0117-9730022 (SWILL) 01225-394041 (Bath Library)

This September, Bath will be buzzing with children’s book authors and illustrators for the second Daily Telegraph Bath Festival of Children’s Literature 2008. Chill out with a visit to Bath Central Library for this fantastic exhibition of artwork from leading children’s book illustrators and get The Big Picture in this National Year of Reading. With work ranging from that of world-known Babette Cole, author/illustrator of beloved classics Princess Smartypants and Mummy Laid an Egg, to that of brand-new book illustrator, Paula Bowles, over 30 artists are represented in a colourfully diverse and diverting show. The illustrators featured are largely locally-based but internationally-employed. They are Grahame Baker Smith, Paula Bowles, Tim ‘Willy’ Bullock, Ivana Svabic Cannon, Michelle Cartlidge, Margaret Chamberlain, Babette Cole, Frances Cony, Steve Cox, Christina de la Mare, Kate Davies, Richard Deverell, Chris Fisher, Mary Hall, Penny Ives, Simon James, Peter Malone, Rodney Matthews, Jackie Morris, Jan Nesbitt, Graham Oakley, Tessa Norris, Anna Popescu, Katy Rhodes, John Sibbick, Sue Shields, Suzy-Jane Tanner, Alan Snow, Carol Tratt, Sarah Warburton, Nadine Wickenden. Original works, cards and prints are available to buy and you can meet the illustrators themselves during the exhibition.

For the latest gen on who and what’s on show visit SWILL’s blog www.swillustrators.blogspot.com or ring 0117 9730022.
Staged in association with The Daily Telegraph Bath Festival of Children’s Literature (www.bathkidslitfest.co.uk), National Year of Reading (www.yearofreading.org.uk) and The Big Picture (www.bigpicture.org.uk). We are delighted to receive sponsorship from Hodder Children’s Books, Orchard Books and Templar Publishing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Campaign for the book

A campaign for the book
Sometimes it just isn't good enough for a writer to sit in his or her study tapping out the latest novel. Events recently propelled me into a fortnight of frantic activity that made me sit down and think very carefully about the position of the book in society. The trigger was an invitation to speak at a public meeting in Doncaster, South Yorkshire to protest against swingeing cuts to the town's library service.
According to the public sector union Unison, Mayor Winter's administration is proposing savings of £662,000 and a further £268,000 being put aside to pay for redundancies. In all some thirty staff are earmarked to go. There will also be cuts to the book budget and to opening hours.
Corporate Director of Customer Services (sic), Stuart Hall, has had this to say about cutbacks that will materially damage the library service:
“What is the point in buying new books? Tescos sell them cheaply and everything you need to know is on the Internet.”
He also said:
“What’s the point of having a Rolls Royce when a Mondeo will do?”
On my return home, I fired off an open letter protesting against this butchery to the many writers, educationalists and librarians I had encountered at the 150 public speaking engagements I do every year.
The response was instantaneous. The signatories are too many to list here but they included Philip Pullman, Philip Reeve, Michael Morpurgo, Geraldine McCaughrean, Toby Litt, Anne Fine, Mark Steel, Beverley Naidoo and dozens of others.
Many contributors to the statement included personal testimonies to the importance of public libraries in their own professional journeys.
The statement figured in the Doncaster press and produced much hand-wringing in the corridors of power. Indeed, Mayor Winter wrote to me this week, responding to the statement. His letter denied that there was any wide-scale cost-cutting at all. This gave an extra fillip, if one was needed, to the several hundred strong demonstration by librarians and their supporters through Doncaster town centre on Saturday, July 12th. At the rally, author Helena Pielichaty and I spoke.
But my concerns go wider than just Doncaster, dire though the situation is. Many of those who emailed me told me of similar situations in their own areas. To cap it all, on Thursday, July 10th at the Kids' Lit Quiz Final in Oxford, I was told by a librarian, a leading member of the Federation of Children's Book Groups, that she faces a £7,000 pay cut. I was appalled to discover how a local authority could treat someone with vast experience and expertise.
In conclusion, recent events acted as a flash of lightning which illuminated the current landscape in the world of books. Libraries are under threat. Some sixty closed last year. The numbers of professional library staff fell in the decade 1995 to 2005 by 13%. National book expenditure in libraries is at its lowest level since 1995.
Nor is it just public libraries. Everywhere, there is a shift from the book to computer services. In some schools the library has been closed, only to reopen as an IT suite. And the books? They have been boxed up and locked in a cupboard somewhere. School librarians have been dismissed and don't forget, only 28% of schools had qualified staff in the first place. Finally, in both public and school libraries, there is a shift from qualified staff to untrained volunteers. In my opinion, this amounts to nothing less than an undeclared war on the book.
I would propose a national conference to set up an umbrella body including everyone who wants to preserve the place of the book in the life of the UK. The country has plummeted down the international PISA ratings for children's reading, a scandal when we remember the UNESCO report that concluded that reading for pleasure is a more important indicator of educational achievement than social class. The conference would include the main professional bodies such as CILIP, the SLA, the Society of Authors, the Poetry Society, the teaching and public sector unions, children's book magazines such as Carousel, Books for Keeps and Armadillo and the country's novelists, illustrators and poets.
The aim would be to draw up a brief, popular, commonly agreed charter to defend the place of the book in our national life. Hopefully, it could also produce a free book full of accounts from people in public life together with poems, stories and snippets about the importance of reading. This may sound a very ambitious undertaking but, despite the marvellous Year of Reading, everywhere I go reading for pleasure faces significant challenges. There are sharks circling in the water. It is time to make a splash and drive them away.

Alan Gibbons, children's author
0151 474 8392
www.alangibbons.com (website)
www.alangibbons.net (blog)