Let’s use our collective power and passion for reading to create change
Jake Hope, Chair of Judges for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway children’s book awards 2018, outlines some of the debates about the awards and why as many people as possible need to have their say through the Diversity Review survey.
Hearing the views and opinions that groups and individuals hold around the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals has been one of the most heartening aspects of chairing the awards. The opportunity to talk with people the length and breadth of the country and connect with thoughts and ideas around why awards, books and reading matter has been tremendously inspiring.
Of course, not everyone is in agreement on how the awards are run or with all of their processes. Yet in spite of differences that are sometimes polar, there is a common passion and belief in the role of the awards that unites these viewpoints.
We wish to make use of the collective power and passion behind reading to inform a productive review process that helps ensure a bright future for all involved with books and reading. CILIP is conducting an online survey to hear from as many people as possible on the awards processes, both what is being done well and where there are areas for improvement. To contribute and have your say please take part in CILIP’s anonymous survey:
The awards processes are regularly reviewed, with recent changes being introduced to open up eligibility for the awards by including books first published in other countries and translated works. Do these elements go far enough, however, to strengthen inclusivity or is there more that can be done?
In 2017, concerns were raised around a Carnegie longlist that did not include any authors by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic authors. In response to this criticism, CILIP launched an independent diversity review of the awards, as part of their wider equalities and diversities action plan. The Review, chaired by Margaret Casely-Hayford, is ongoing. It aims to explore how equality, diversity, inclusion and representation can best be championed through the awards and its accompanying shadowing scheme. It explores diversity in its broadest sense, inclusive of gender, ethnicity, background, social class, disability and age and aims to scrutinise all aspects of the awards, providing an official channel through which people can have their say and contribute feedback, thoughts and ideas for consideration.
There can be little doubt that recent shortlists have recognised the exhilarating innovation and experimentation that has occurred in Young Adult fiction. Some have raised queries as to whether this growth in YA books might have led to the breadth and quality of writing and illustration for younger readers being overlooked.
Some have voiced concerns around the titles that are seen versus those that are less visible - the books that do not readily get into library suppliers and are less likely to be known. Some feel the award being chosen by librarians makes the awards impartial. While others see the narrow demographic that librarians as a profession represent as problematic. Some people feel the criteria against which the awards are measured are likely to favour one type of book against another while others believe a dedicated set of published criteria makes the awards transparent.
The well-established and hugely popular shadowing scheme for the awards reaches thousands of children and young people. Many suggest its popularity lies in the flexibility of how it can be run, with groups being able to choose which books they read and when and how to explore and interact with the content and themes. Some worry, however, that the awards do not sufficiently acknowledge or celebrate the input that children and young people have through the scheme.
So many different and opposing views, so many conversations, such passion, energy and recognition for the formative role that tales told in words, stories shown in pictures can play in our lives. A challenge for the review is capturing all of the content of these communications that happen as informal chats, as comments on social media or as more formal conversations.
As part of the diversity review a survey has been launched in collaboration with the University of Coventry. It aims to ensure everyone can feed in their views. We want to hear from librarians, journalists, academics, teachers, reviewers, judges (past, present and future), booksellers, suppliers, publishers, agents, authors, illustrators, translators and, of course, not forgetting children and young people themselves. Many children and young people have been incredibly articulate, well-reasoned and thoughtful in the views they hold, like the brilliant pupils at Netley Primary who wrote passionate letters about the award and whose school I was able to visit.
Join us in sharing this survey so that all voices and viewpoints can be heard and recognised. Let’s use the collective power and passion behind reading and the awards to help make sure that all concerns and ideas are voiced and can be explored and considered as part of a productive review process that helps ensure a bright future for all involved with books and reading!
Take part in CILIP's diversity survey here:
The survey consists of 12 questions and will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Your answers will be strictly confidential and anonymous.