This week, the author SF Said launched a fantastic campaign for newspapers to feature more children’s book reviews, after an investigation found that only 3% of the book reviews in national newspapers in August 2015 were of children’s books.
#CoverKidsBooks got off to a great start, with conversations sprouting up all over social media. But it also caused some people to ask: "Do we need newspapers? Look at all this coverage of the campaign online!"
Sadly I think the answer is most definitely yes, we do still need this campaign. We all know people who say “my child LOVES reading, he/she’s got everything by Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and David Walliams” but if you ask them about any other author they look a bit blank. And remember, these are parents of children who love reading, not children who are reluctant readers.
We also know parents who, when they start having children, are determined to make their babies fond of books so buy a set of Julia Donaldson, with maybe a bit of Allen Ahlberg and Michael Rosen thrown in.
There is nothing wrong with those books, of course, but in the book industry we know about all the amazing varieties ofother types of titles that are out there. So why doesn’t the average children’s book buyer?
I think we forget that in the book world we can be a bit inward-looking and a huge amount of the population does not care about articles by industry journalists (like me) or bloggers. I can talk about the brilliant new books by Katherine Woodfine or Steve Antony endlessly on Twitter but the average parent or grandparent isn’t going to join in.
If, however, if a journalist like Nicolette Jones in the Sunday Times or Natasha Harding in the Sun writes about a great new release, they are putting children’s books in front of hundreds - and even thousands - of adults who, and I think this is a very crucial point, weren’t looking for children’s book reviews in the first place.
I get the point that newspaper buying is declining, but according to a report in the Guardian, daily UK sales of newspapers came to around seven million in March last year. If only 0.5% of those seven million people had bought a children’s book based on reading it in their paper, that would have resulted in sales of 5,000 children’s books - a huge boost to any author.
I’m also really not underestimating the power of digital. Mumsnet is doing great work in this area and I think Toppsta, the new book recommendation site, is brilliant. But no-one says "we don’t need reviews of adult books in newspapers because you can get them online", so why do we have to choose? Let’s continue to support those online services that help adults choose the best children’s books, but let’s also ask for children’s books to get the coverage in print media they deserve.