NEW GOVERNMENT – NEW INITIATIVES?
BfK invites Tim Godfray, Chief Executive of the Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland, to explain what he expects from New Labour.
Don’t Tax Reading!
It is very heartening to see that the Government has put Education at the top of its agenda. Both Chris Smith and Mark Fisher have shown personally great interest in the book trade and we are grateful to them for their support. In this new climate we are working with the Government to promote World Book Day on 23rd April 1998. Ten million school children in the UK and Ireland will be given £1.00 off vouchers next April which they can take into those bookshops which have elected to support WBD. A special book The Children’s Book of Books will be produced to commemorate the day. We are also working with the Government to support the National Year of Reading, which will begin in September.
It is particularly pleasing to note that the Government has given a specific commitment not to extend VAT to books and newspapers during the lifetime of this Parliament.
Chris Smith and Mark Fisher would be the first to agree that books represent the major means by which individuals – but particularly children – acquire education, informal and formal, providing the basis of reading skills, inquiry, comprehension and individual enterprise. Books build and transmit culture, science and history, and encourage and maintain literacy.
The European Commission wishes to bring VAT rates into line throughout the European Union. At present, under transitional arrangements, the UK is entitled to apply a zero rate to books, newspapers and periodicals, under the EC Sixth VAT Directive.
The European Commission does not want any member state in the future to be able to allocate a zero rate for any products, goods or services. Commissioner Monti suggests that ‘some sort of continuation of a reduced VAT rate under the new common system might be considered’. At present, this reduced rate looks as if it will be no less than 5%.
We very much hope that Chris Smith, Mark Fisher and their colleagues within the Government will ensure that when the European Governments agree a common VAT system, that provision is made for member states to continue to allocate a zero VAT rate, should they wish to do so. In addition, we urge our Government to insist that changes to EC VAT rates can only be made in the future if all member states in the Council agree to a particular change; also, that the VAT Committee is not given the authority to fix specific rates.
Even in the darkest days of the Second World War books were not taxed in the UK. Books feed the mind. We do hope that Chris Smith and Mark Fisher will say to their other colleagues in the Labour Party now – and beyond the lifetime of this Parliament – Don’t Tax Reading!
World Book Day Vouchers
School packs, posters and booklets will be sent to schools suggesting how children can get involved in World Book Day on 23rd April but the really AMAZING news is that a free £1 book voucher will be distributed to every child from reception class age to 18-year-olds in full-time education in sixth form and further education colleges. As Philip Pullman says, ‘Giving children vouchers to buy books is like giving them the key to new worlds.’
The voucher can be exchanged at participating booksellers for £1 off the price of any other book (one voucher per book). They must be redeemed by 4th May. For children unable or reluctant to spend more than their voucher, The Children’s Book of Books, an anthology of ‘extracts from favourite books’ chosen by ‘celebrities’ (from Chris Evans to Tony Blair) will be available at £1. However, BfK thinks a better bet for younger readers would be one of Red Fox’s ‘Mini-Treasures’ at 99p each (reviewed page 19) or for older readers one of Orion’s themed story collections (Go for Goal, Spine Chillers, Stars in Your Eyes etc, selected by Wendy Cooling, Dolphin Story Collection) at £1 each. For secondary school students Wordsworth classics are still among the cheapest in town…
Slump in School Book Spending
Despite the Government’s call to improve literacy standards, a survey published at the beginning of January by the Educational Publishers Council reveals that schools are now spending less on books than in 1995. The School Book Buying Survey 1996-97 shows that one in five UK primary schools spent less that £5 per head last year and almost one in six UK secondary schools spent less than £10 per head. The recommended amounts put forward by Book Trust are £54 per head at primary level and £67 at secondary. Book Trust Chairman and former Senior Chief Inspector of Schools Professor Eric Bolton says: ‘The government has announced that 1998/99 is to be the National Year of Reading and has earmarked £19 million to support it. Yet EPC’s figures show that the gap is widening between what schools should be spending on books and what they do spend. These realities must be faced and tackled if we are to make progress.’
Public Library Loans
According to the latest survey of public library loans from Public Lending Right (PLR) loans of children’s non-fiction were up from 4.6% of national loans to 6%. Children’s fiction loans decreased from 23% in 1995-96 to 22.3% in 1996-97. The five most borrowed children’s authors were R L Stine (Point Horror), Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Roald Dahl, Ann M Martin (The Baby-Sitters Club) and Enid Blyton. This is the same top five as last year but R L Stine has pushed his way up from number five to the top position.
Sainsbury’s Literacy Scheme
Newham Council education department and Sainsbury’s East Ham branch have developed a child literacy scheme. Six ‘recipe’ cards and matching book marks highlighting the ways parents can help with early reading were sent to local schools. There were also vouchers offering 30p off books. Sales of the branch’s 18 children’s titles increased between 50% and 70%.
Walker Books, has set up a new trust, a QUEST (qualifying employee share ownership trust) to buy the 49% of the company owned by the Cecil family. The new trust will issue shares in Walker Books to employees, authors and illustrators. Before his death in 1991 Sebastian Walker set up the Walker Books Employee Trust which owns 51% of the company.
Ladybird, part of the Pearson group, is handing over the responsibility for its trade sales accounts to Penguin, also a Pearson company. 13 redundancies including reps and warehouse staff will result.
Count Down to the 1998-99 National Year of Reading
Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett got the National Year of Reading launch off to a good start on 29 January with the announcement of a grant to every school with 86 pupils or more of around £1000 to buy books. This sum will buy c. 150-200 books depending on prices. Blunkett announced: ‘We are determined to transform the nation’s attitude to reading. Today is the start of our drive to make this a reality by harnessing people’s enthusiasm and creativity throughout this special year. The year starts in September and it is aimed at everyone from children and their parents, from avid readers, to those who rarely read at all.’ Copies of the National Year of Reading booklet are available free by calling 0845 60 222 60 or faxing 0845 60 333 60 quoting reference number NYR2PG. The booklet is also available in Braille and on audio-cassette and in Bengali, Gujerati, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Chinese.
Bookstart – Books for Babies
With funding from the Basic Skills Agency, Book Trust is now in a position to make national Bookstart materials available to local authorities nationwide. The initial Bookstart Project set up in 1992 has demonstrated, in the words of Professor Barrie Wade of Birmingham University, that ‘an early start with books has the potential to be very cost-effective in producing higher standards in literacy’. Brian Perman, director of Book Trust, said: ‘…there could not be a better time to launch a national Bookstart programme. Book Trust hopes to ensure that many thousands of babies in every part of the country will be receiving free books before the end of 1999.’
Books for Students
BEST SELLER CHARTS
Top 10 titles for 5-9 year olds in 1997
1. Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl, Puffin
2. Animal Ark Pets: Hamster Hotel, Lucy Daniels, Hodder
3. Animal Ark Pets: Mouse Magic, Lucy Daniels, Hodder
4. The Magic Finger, Roald Dahl, Puffin
5. George’s Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl, Puffin
6. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle, Puffin
7. Arthur’s Teacher Trouble, Marc Brown, Red Fox
8. Best Friends letter writing pack, Henderson
9. Giggle Club: One Windy Wednesday, Phyllis Root, Walker
10. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, Jill Tomlinson, Mammoth
Top 10 titles for 9-12 year olds in 1997
1. Goosebumps: Beast from the East, R L Stine, Scholastic
2. Goosebumps: Egg Monsters from Mars, R L Stine, Scholastic
3. Horrible Histories: The Rotten Romans, Terry Deary, Scholastic
4. Horrible Histories: The Vile Victorians, Terry Deary, Scholastic
5. Goosebumps: The Bad Hare Day, R L Stine, Scholastic
6. The Iron Man, Ted Hughes, Faber
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis, Collins
8. Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die Again, R L Stine, Scholastic
9. Animal Ark: Elephants in the East, Lucy Daniels, Hodder
10. Horrible Histories: The Awesome Egyptians, Terry Deary, Scholastic
While ‘Lucy Daniels’ and Roald Dahl titles jostle for top position with younger readers, it is interesting to see a Giggle Club title in their top ten. ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Horrible Histories’ continue to dominate the list for older readers.
These listings have been specially compiled for BfK by Books for Students from their sales data. Books for Students Ltd is a major specialist supply company to schools and libraries.
Summer School on Children’s Literature
Dublin, 8-10th May 1998
Speakers include: Michael Foreman, Morag Styles, Allan Ahlberg, Helen Cooper and many more. For further details, contact Children’s Books Ireland, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 2 (Tel/Fax 353-1-8725854).
Ledbury Poetry Festival
The festival starts with Poets in Residence in local schools from 6-10th July. The main public events will run from 9-19th July. Poets appearing include Kit Wright and Roger McGough. Further information from Blanca Rey-Surman or Ali Haydn Jones on 01531 634156.
Arts Council Children’s Literature Summer School
Speakers include Helen Cooper, Geoff Fox, Margaret Mahy and Philip Pullman. Details from Philip Healy, Westminster College, Oxford.
‘Let the Wild Rumpus Start’ – Play in Children’s Books
Children’s Literature New England is holding a week’s ‘institute’ (a course of lectures, events and discussion groups) at Newnham College, Cambridge, from 16th-22nd August. Guest speakers include Allan Ahlberg, Susan Cooper, Anne Fine, Michael Foreman, Alan Garner, Russell Hoban, Margaret Mahy and Philip Pullman. The fee for UK participants is £745, including full board in college, reducible by bursary to £545, with an alternative for day attendance only of £250. Applications by 15th April; details from Jill Paton Walsh/John Rowe Townsend, 72 Water Lane, Histon, Cambridge CB4 4LR.
Beginning with Books is a wittily illustrated leaflet aimed at parents which spells out clearly the pleasures and advantages of introducing children to books. It also gives helpful hints on how to do it. £1.50 (inc. p&p) from Book Trust Scotland, Scottish Book Centre, 137 Dundee Street, Edinburgh EH11 1BG. (For bulk orders, ask for price information.)
The Famous Five: A Guide to the Characters Appearing in Enid Blyton’s Series by David Rudd with appendices on Famous Five films by Norman Wright is available from 60 Eastbury Road, Watford, Herts WD1 4JL for £4.10 inc. postage.
Books to Enjoy: 8-12 by Wendy Cooling. An annotated booklist of over 150 titles. £4.50 inc. p&p from The School Library Association, Liden Library, Barrington Close, Liden, Swindon SN3 6HF.
British Book Awards
The Children’s Book of the Year Award has been won by Joanna Rowling for her first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury Children’s Books).
The Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year
Worth £10,000, the 1997 award went to Andrew Norriss for Aquila (Hamish Hamilton/Puffin) reviewed page 22.
The Kathleen Fidler Award
Intended to encourage new talent, the Fidler offers a new writer for children an opportunity to be published as well as a cheque for £1,000. This year’s winner is Mark Leyland for Slate Mountain which will be published by Hodder Children’s Books later this year.
Harvey Darton Award
Awarded biennially by the Children’s Books History Society ‘for a distinguished contribution to the history of English children’s literature’ the Harvey Darton Award for 1996-97 has been awarded to two books, The Natural History of Make-Believe by John Goldthwaite (Oxford University Press, reviewed in BfK 104) and G A Henty 1832-1902 by Peter Newbolt (Scolar Press). The judges, Brian Alderson, Dennis Butts and Mary Cadogan, commended Goldthwaite’s book as ‘one of those critical works, rare in this field, which brought wide reading and scholarship to bear in…interpretations of some of the classic texts of children’s literature’ and Newbolt’s book as a bringing to fruition of ‘some twenty years of work on the complex publishing history of one of the most popular writers for boys’.
The Publishers Publicity Circle
The Publishers Publicity Circle award for the best children’s book campaign during 1997 went to the Puffin team, the Andersen Press team and Miranda McKearney of the Library Association for Junk by Melvin Burgess.
Joan Lingard was awarded an MBE for services to literature in the New Year’s Honours list.
Ted Dewan has been elected Chair of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group of The Society of Authors. The other members of the committee are.Terence Blacker, Malorie Blackman, Joanna Carey, Helen Cooper, Joyce Dunbar, Jean Ure, Colin West, Jacqueline Wilson and Gareth Shannon (Secretary).
Robert Dunbar has given up his role as editor of Children’s Books in Ireland. His successors are Claire Ranson and Sarah Webb who can be contacted at CBI, Irish Writers Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.
Poet Ben Zephaniah has been invited to join a new national advisory committee on creative and cultural education with a brief to examine how education can prepare children for the next century. He will be joined by Sir Simon Rattle and Hampstead School head, Dame Tamsyn Imison.
Contributors: BfK team, Keith Barker. Submissions welcome.