Children’s literature is regarded as a poor relation to adult literature and the choice made available to children in bookshops is limited in scope, according to the findings of a wide-ranging review of children’s literature commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE) and conducted during the autumn of 2003.
This was the first review of children’s literature in twenty-five years, and involved consultation with its producers, consumers and promoters across England. Many participants observed that children’s publishers were getting fewer in number and bigger in size, and the books they published more alike. There was concern about the extent to which major booksellers were influencing publishing lists and reading choices, with shelf space being highly competitive. The distinctive and diverse output of small presses was acknowledged and there was a demand for dedicated small press space in bookshops and libraries. The review concludes that, despite there being a dynamic literary climate, children’s writers frequently do not receive the recognition they deserve. A more modern definition of children’s literature is needed to accommodate new media, a mix of artforms, and a diverse audience. ACE has produced an action plan to develop the issues raised in the review, and will be incorporating this into its strategy for youth arts. A 52% funding increase has been allocated to literature over three years as part of its 2003-2006 spending plan. Full findings of the consultation will be available at http://www.artscouncil.org.uk from January 2004.