HAPPY NEW YEAR
Welcome to our first issue of 2017. The year is still shiny new; what is in store for 2017? 2016 was not without its share of depressing news, but not everything was grey. We have seen a number of brave new publishers emerging, new imprints specialising in picture books or information, books in translation are more widely available, a verse novel won the Carnegie Medal and a book for children won the Costa Book of the Year. Will these trends continue? What will be our preoccupations in the coming months? We asked representatives from across the book and library world to give us their predictions.
Nick Poole, CEO, CILIP: I think in 2017 everybody is going to be talking about information literacy. We’ve all had enough of fake news and misinformation – what we need is a nation of readers with the skills and confidence to ask difficult questions, check facts and come to their own conclusions. I hope the amazing flourishing of children’s and YA fiction will help inspire the next generation to become critical thinkers & library users!
Tricia Adams, director School Library Association: I think 2017 will be a year of hard campaigning for both public and school libraries across the country. There are some fantastic books around at the moment for all ages, but if there are no libraries able to buy them then it disenfranchises so many, but especially children – who often have little or no disposable income of their own. I hope I am proved wrong but…
Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy) at The Open University: I expect we’ll be talking about what ‘reading for pleasure’ really means. How it can be nurtured when the focus is on reading as a decontextualized skill framed by NC tests, and how we might document the development of children’s pleasure and engagement as readers. Not, ‘measuring the pleasure’ (I hope), but trying to find ways to formatively assess key aspects, such as children’s capacity to make discerning choices, their commitment to particular authors, their involvement in spontaneous conversations about texts and their desire and willingness to read more deeply.
Jonathan Douglas, Director, National Literacy Trust: 2017 will be marked by a growing awareness of the gap between the literacy of our poorest and riches communities. A map will be launched in Parliament in February highlighting literacy hotspots where more than 40% of the adult population have literacy levels below that expected of an 11 year old.
At the same time as we struggle to make sense of Brexit literature I believe that literature in translation will become increasingly important. Writers like Fabio Geda, great translators like Danial Hahn and the excellent Marsh Award will win the recognition they deserve as propagators of a literary empathy which transcends national borders and ethnic identities.
Miranda McKearney, Empathy Lab: In a post-Brexit, post-truth, Trump world, we’ll be talking about how to have a steely focus on inspiring our children to develop personal qualities and values which combat the rise in hate crimes and a fear of ‘the other’. At EmpathyLab we’ll be particularly working to help children understand the feelings of refugees, and looking forward to working with two important new books, Zana Fraillon’s Bone Sparrow and Elizabeth Laird’s Welcome to Nowhere.
Carrie Morris, of Booka bookshop Oswestry, Chair of the Bookseller Association Children’s Bookselling Group: Sales of physical books grew for the second consecutive year in 2016, despite the obvious political fallout we now face in the wake of Brexit and the US Presidential election result. We expect this to continue in 2017 as readers seek to ground themselves and turn to books to help make sense of the world or to escape the realities and burdens of modern day living; books which allow readers to reconnect with nature, books which enable readers to take control and improve their lives, books which take readers into different worlds, books which reflect our current social climate and help us view things through different eyes and experiences. In my own shop we will be ‘accentuating the positive’ and promoting books as a ‘comfort blanket’ against the uncertainties of life. A visit to an independent bookshop offers a simple and inexpensive way to take a break from our digital existence. A place to ‘Read, Relax and Rejuvenate’.
Pam Dix, Chair of Ibby UK: I hope that 2017 will see a higher level of discussion about books in translation following the very strong Marsh short list announcement and the various Arts Council funded projects that will be reporting this year. I am curious to see where the creative and exciting developments in non-fiction publishing will go next.
Joy Court, Chair of the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenway Medals, reviews editor of the School Librarian: At this time of the year when I am immersed in reading last year’s books on nomination lists I have an ever increasing pile of TBR that I am itching to get to. 2017 looks very exciting and has got off to a cracking start with the first time pairing of Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan with We Come Apart and important books such as Elizabeth Laird’s Welcome to Nowhere. I also think we will continue to see a resurgence of top quality Middle Grade fiction if Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans is anything to go by. But any year which has the prospect of a new Patrick Ness novel is bound to be good. Release is out in May which also means it will be eligible for the next round of UKLA award submissions which is very good news indeed.
Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive, the Reading Agency: I think one of the themes everyone will continue to talk about is migration. The first book I read this year was Emma Jane Kirby’s The Optician of Lampedusa. It is a brilliant, harrowing, heart-breaking book which describes how a summer boat trip turned into a rescue operation for 47 migrants and the enduring anguish of both rescuers and rescued for the 360 people they were unable to save. It’s a powerful reminder of what is happening to people across the globe and we need the reminding. What books like this do is what great literature has always done – illuminate an issue, pose a challenge and make you think about it and talk about it long after you read the last page.
Let us know what you think via our Facebook page or twitter @BooksforKeeps