The opportunity for children’s non-fiction lies in offering “trust and authority” in a world of fake news, paid for ads and internet misinformation, DK’s chief executive Ian Hudson has said.
Speaking at The Bookseller’s Children’s Conference in London’s Milton Court on Tuesday (26th September), Hudson revealed a study DK commissioned by research firm Opinion Matters in May of 1,000 adults and their children aged 10-18 found that young people were concerned by topics raised in the news.
Terrorism had been proactively brought up by half of 10-year-olds surveyed, the General Election by nearly one third of 10-year-olds and nuclear attacks had been raised by one-fifth of 10-year-olds, the research found.
Hudson said: “In a world where children as young as 10 and their parents are both concerned about internet security and topics raised on social media, non-fiction books can continue to offer the trust and authority that they always have done. The internet is a mass repository of information and misinformation and when an internet search can bring up fake news, paid-for-ads or SEO optimised articles rather than high quality content, the need for accessible, curated books is greater than ever.
“Non-fiction books offer a safe environment for children of all ages to find answers to important questions that they feel anxious about. Trusted, accurate and accessible information written by experts in their fields, in the language and tone that children understand and feel comfortable with, will help them to grow to be confident in themselves and adaptable in their thinking.”
The survey also found that children’s top five concerns in order were bullying, body image, academic performance, internet safety and social media.
However, Hudson was eager to point out that the opportunity for children’s non-fiction shouldn’t be seen as “a battle between books and the internet”.
Instead, “non-fiction books can be trusted gateways to additional materials on the internet which can enrich the entertainment or learning value that the book itself brings,” he said, adding “and, of course, well constructed e-books can deliver many of the intrinsic values of their physical counterparts.”
Hudson believes that as more jobs becomes automated and computerised, knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) would be “more important as ever”, but publishers had to be mindful that the skills young people require may change over time, “and these will need supplementing with soft social, economic and life skills”.
“In non-fiction publishing, we are already introducing STEM topics at younger and younger ages and seeking to break gender stereotypes, however, over time, our emphasis on different aspects of STEM may need to change and the scope of our publishing may need to broaden,” Hudson said.
The DK chief ended his presentation with a call for publishers to reflect the traits of Generation Z “especially as they are the most ethnically diverse and culturally aware generation to date”.
“Let’s seize on their interest in the world around them in our publishing and let’s embrace their reliance on, and knowledge of, technology,” he finished.
This morning the conference heard from Hachette Children’s Group’s c.e.o Hilary Murray Hill who called on publishers to “act as agents of social change more than ever before” as children “overuse of social media and time online” and are “absolutely beset by anxiety”.
The Bookseller's charts and data analyst Kiera O'Brien also revealed earlier that 37 million children’s books have been sold for £218m for the year to date, a 1.79% drop in both volume and value against the same period in 2016 - although without Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Little, Brown) the market is actually up 3.85% for the year-to-date.