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Posted by Tom, October 15, 2013

Neil Gaiman: ‘No such thing as a bad book for children’

Last night, Coraline author Neil Gaiman delivered the second annual Reading Agency lecture in London, and he used the opportunity to issue a passionate plea against library closures, to speak about the importance of child literacy, and to advocate a wider range of reading material for children.

Here’s some of what Gaiman said about libraries:

“We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.”

And here he is on literacy rates:

“Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.”

And finally, here he is on letting children read what they want:

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children’s books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. I’ve seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy. It’s tosh. It’s snobbery and it’s foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different.”

We’ve written many time about the importance of libraries and literacy (and how the two are connected), and have also re-posted, with permission, Caitlin Moran’s brilliant column on the subject (this morning on Twitter, commenting on Gaiman’s speech, she wrote that, “The continuing library closures are just appalling. When people say “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” – libraries ARE the bootstraps”).

And there’s little to be said on the subject that Gaiman did not cover in his brilliant, ferociously articulate speech – you can read an edited version on The Guardian’s website here. To live in a civilised society in which libraries are closing, rather than opening, is simply impossible to comprehend (so thank goodness for events like the opening of Birmingham’s new Central Library).

Neil’s latest children’s book, the very funny Fortunately, The Milk, is available to buy here (and will doubtless also be available from your local library).