• The Unesco Courier (2024_2): Youth literature: a story of growth and wonder

The Unesco Courier (2024_2): Youth literature: a story of growth and wonder

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Children don’t read any more. Teenagers even less so.
Screens have made the comic books and albums ofour childhood a thing of the past. Such is the current discourse.

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In reality, whether the doomsayers like it or not, children’s literature is in good shape. Against all odds, the book continues to hold a special place in the hearts of children. Reading aloud remains a special moment of complicity between adults and children. And that’s good news, given how important early reading is for learning language, overcoming fears, and understanding the world. Even teenagers, with their passion for romance and hero fantasies, will happily immerse themselves in a thick book.
For several decades, the vitality of children’s literature has been sustained by a generation of authors and illustrators who, from Ana Maria Machado (Brazil) and Nahoko Uehashi (Japan) to Maurice Sendak (USA) and Tomi Ungerer (France), have breathed new life into a genre that was, for a long time, trapped inside a didactic or moralistic straitjacket. The result is a proliferating and inventive range of books that speak at child’s level. This is also borne out by the heritage value now accorded to traditional tales, and even to the archives of certain authors and publishers, such as those of Père Castor, which were inscribed on  UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2017.