When #CoverKidsBooks launched 12 weeks ago, we hoped to spark a conversation about children's books media coverage. We didn't know if it would change anything, but we knew the conversation had to happen. We've been delighted to see it take off in all sorts of places – and in the last week, we've seen two massive pieces of news that represent real breakthroughs.
First, Andrew Holgate, literary editor of The Sunday Times, announced on Twitter that his newspaper will be giving brilliant critic Nicolette Jones a whole column every week in which to write about children's books.
#CoverKidsBooks believes this is a historic step in the right direction. We'd like to applaud Andrew Holgate and The Sunday Times, and we encourage anyone who cares about children's books to let them know how welcome it is!
We hope other newspapers will take note of the fact that The Sunday Times has decided to expand its children's coverage. We have yet to hear a plausible reason why every newspaper cannot include at least one children's book review every week. That would be the bare minimum acknowledgement that this form of literature exists, at a time when children's books account for 34% of the UK publishing market.
We also hope The Sunday Times will consider increasing its children's coverage still further. Because while a column a week is great progress, The Sunday Times had 11 pages of books coverage this week. Each page had 4 columns. Children's books therefore received just 2.3% of the total space given to books. If children's books were fairly represented and given 34% of space, there would be almost 4 full pages of children's books coverage.
It may be hard to imagine a newspaper giving children's books such a share of coverage. But there is one newspaper that does it regularly, and it's the number one bestselling newspaper in the UK: The Sun. Their books editor and columnist Natasha Harding is a great supporter of children's literature, and recently tweeted:
In this week's Sun, of the 6 books reviewed, 2 were children's books (1 fiction; 1 non-fiction). So The Sun gave 33% of its book review space to children's books: exactly in line with their market share. Better still, the children's book reviews were exactly the same size, length and prominence as the other reviews. The Sun treats them in the same way: not fenced off in a corner, but included in the discussion as books that might be of interest to anyone. And this approach makes space for children's non-fiction as well as fiction: something all too often overlooked.
If Britain's bestselling newspaper can see sound reasons for consistently giving children's books this kind of coverage, why can't other media outlets? There is a massive audience hungry for this material. And there's no reason why children's book coverage can't be of interest to anyone who wants to read about the best in literature. After all, children's books are often the ones that most deeply shape a culture; writers such as Salman Rushdie and Jeanette Winterson have spoken of their importance. I wrote an article on this subject for the Guardian that has been shared over 40,000 times: more evidence of a readership that wants to see such material.
The other brilliant news is that CBBC have revamped and relaunched their Children's Book Club. At last, children's books are back on TV in a regular way. The response has already been fantastic, as you can see from all the activity online.
So #CoverKidsBooks would like to applaud CBBC and Katie Thistleton for bringing children's books back to mainstream TV. We hope that everyone will share this wonderful news and encourage all young readers to get involved! We also cannot help wondering what else might be possible; many conversations are taking place behind the scenes, so keep watching this space.
We believe the crucial thing now is to continue the conversation and the campaign, and that is what we're planning to do. We've already heard powerful testimony about why this issue matters in the booksellers', librarians' and teachers' blogs. But there's much more to come. Upcoming #CoverKidsBooks blogs will see parents, experts, authors and illustrators giving compelling reasons why there should be more children's books coverage. We're also looking into commissioning more research, and planning a live event to discuss the issue.
If lasting change is to come about, it will only be because large numbers of people keep making it clear it's what they want. So if you care about children's books, please keep talking about them and their coverage! Keep blogging and tweeting! Celebrate good practice where you see it; make media organisations know it's welcome. And where you see children's books unfairly excluded – for example when a newspaper has not a single children's book review in a week – make it clear that this is not acceptable.
Because if, in just 12 weeks, organisations like The Sunday Times and the BBC have decided to give children's books more space – then anything is possible! So we'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone in the children's books community and beyond who has supported this campaign so brilliantly. #CoverKidsBooks is about all of us who care about children's literature speaking up for it and saying that it matters enough to take seriously. And if we just keep doing that – everyone, all together – who knows what we might achieve?
#CoverKidsBooks invites you to join in a public conversation about children's books. Leave a comment, write a blog of your own, or tweet about it using the hashtag. Tell us why children's books matter to you, and what you'd like to see the media do to #CoverKidsBooks!