It was with great sadness that I learned the news on Twitter, that the Guardian was closing its children’s book site. Although it will still be covering children’s books on its main site, sadly the coverage will be aimed at adults and not children. In the aftermath of the announcement my Twitter feed was filled with comments from parents, librarians, authors , illustrators and book professionals who were hugely disappointed at the loss of this fantastic resource. For me I felt the loss both personally and professionally and it was a massive blow to the Cover Kids Campaign which I strongly support.
When I first started working in the Children’s area of a public library four years ago, the website was one of the first resources I found which helped me on my quest to learn about children’s books. I wanted to arm myself with the tools to do the best job possible to help me help support children on their reading journey and I found myself returning time and again to the site for inspiration and ideas. My girls loved the ‘How to draw’ feature, they drew Pugs with Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve and Evil Emperor Penguin with Laura Ellen Anderson. It kept them entertained on many a rainy weekend, who wouldn’t want to learn from their favourite author and illustrator. I loved reading the articles from authors about their favourite things in children’s books from Claire Barker’s ‘Top 10 Haunted Houses’ to Phil Earle’s ‘Greatest Dad’s in Fiction’ for me each of these was an insight into the author’s mind which I found fascinating. After becoming a Primary School Librarian I used it regularly to keep up to date with new book releases for book selection to ensure my children were getting access to a wide variety of authors.
But why is it that we feel the loss of this website so greatly, why do we need to give coverage to children’s books anyway? I want to share a comment from a customer at the library just to give you an idea why it is so important. Whilst I was recommending books to his six year old daughter he was amazed that I was able to find appropriate books so easily. He told me that he had bought her a David Walliam’s book for her and it was totally unsuitable. Confused, I asked him why he had chosen that particular book he said quite simply ‘It’s the only children’s book I have seen mentioned in a newspaper.’ When we don’t cover a wide range of books in print or online how are parents expected to help choose books to inspire and enthuse their children? This is where the Guardian’s Book site was invaluable, championing new and diverse authors, with content from adults and children it provided the perfect combination of expert and peer recommendations.
These are just my personal thoughts, how will the closure of the site impact on other book lovers and what did they love about the site. I asked a representation of the different types of users of the website from children, parents, authors, bloggers and book professionals, to find out.
SF Said – Author / Founder of the Cover Kids Book Campaign
SF wrote an open letter to the Guardian with over 450 signatures about the closure of the site.
“We note with sadness the closing of the Guardian Children’s Books site, which was a unique world-class resource. All who were involved in the site deserve enormous credit for creating a space in which the voices of young people could be heard, and this space will be much missed. While we are encouraged to hear that coverage will continue online within the Guardian Books site, we are also concerned to see that the Guardian is covering children’s literature in print less frequently. Children’s books now account for 34% of the UK book market. Many authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, librarians, teachers and experts feel this is a golden age for children’s literature. At such a time, we believe national newspapers should cover at least one children’s book a week. Weekly coverage is vital for those who buy children’s books to find it regularly. This is the stated policy of The Sun and The Sunday Times, and it was once the stated policy of The Guardian, which has in the past always given children’s literature the same respect and critical attention as other forms of literature. We therefore ask for a clear statement of your current policy on children’s books coverage, and we urge the Guardian to maintain its distinguished tradition of championing children’s literature.”
George Hamerton – Guardian Children’s Book Reviewer
“I joined Guardian Children’s Books site early in 2015. The site has given me many great opportunities such as the chance to meet some of my favourite authors and other site members. I have been able to express my views about newly published books as well as classic titles. In addition, I am more confident to talk about, and recommend books to my teachers and peers, which has been really useful as I am chief Librarian at my school. Some of the books I have received from the Book Elves have been books that I would not normally read, yet I still enjoyed them. I also enjoyed the site on World Book Day when they posted pictured of children in their book inspired costumes. I drew some fanart for Philip Reeve’s Railhead, and I was excited to see that my art work was published on the website! Now that I won’t be able to send my reviews to Guardian Children’s Books, I am considering creating my own book blog and reviewing books. I feel like I know the Book Elves personally and Emily Drabble almost feels like family. I am very sad that the site is closing, and although I haven’t been a member for that long, I have really enjoyed my time, the books and the places they have taken me.”
Christopher Edge – Author