The Bookseller Children’s Conference 2019
by Louise Turner
Louise Turner is completing the MA Publishing via distance learning. She is a primary school governor, children’s library advocate, and ambassador for Nosy Crow. Find her on twitter @loucloverturner for children’s books, reading initiatives, and research.
Despite feeling somewhat out of my comfort zone, I chose to attend this year’s conference to keep abreast of the current challenges facing the children’s publishing landscape, and potentially generate areas for further investigation within my research. What follows is a summary of the talks and some of the key questions I felt were addressed within each session.
The day kicked off with a keynote from Catherine Bell, of Scholastic UK. Catherine discussed the importance of children being read to beyond the phonics phase. Eighty-six percent of children say they enjoy a book that they purchase themselves. Therefore, the unicorns, fluffy kittens, and gaming titles, often referenced by parents as ‘not proper books’ are ALL crucial to literacy.
Key Question: How do we ensure we celebrate ALL books? Catherine resolved that 'our tent is big, but it could be bigger'.
Kiera O’Brien, The Bookseller’s data expert, proceeded with the latest market statistics: David Walliams dominates, paperback sales are up, and YA is anticipating the lowest year to date. World Book Day 2020 was officially launched, reemphasizing Catherine’s keynote of sharing stories and developing a 'bookshop habit'. Pete Selby, of WHSmith, and Carrie Morris of Booka Bookshop, referred to the high street as 'an open doorway of hearts and minds that cannot be replicated elsewhere'.
Key Question: How do we increase bookshop footfall? Carrie demonstrated success through creatively, bringing the theatre of stories out to the bookshop floor, via pop-up events.
Panel conversations were held surrounding numerous topical subjects. An interesting observation came out of the ‘Quizzing the Reviewers’.
Key Question: Why do children’s books struggle for review space? Panellists noted that journalists and editors often need a compelling backstory or adult-themed angle to warrant reviewing them.
Another panel discussed the industry’s response to the mental health crisis.
Key Question: How do we overcome the negative media narrative? The inclusion and celebration of young people was one suggestion, although it requires sensitivity concerning ‘labelling’.
The conference was closed with a vibrant and passionate speech from author and laureate, Cressida Cowell, insisting every child has the necessary tools to access reading. Although, as she professed, she was indeed preaching to the converted!
Last edited: 30 09 2019