Have just come across the full text of Nicolette Jones’s keynote speech at the Eleanor Farjeon Award presentation:
Circumstances have changed a good deal since I began to review books for the younger market. Bookshop chains have come and gone; marketing and advances can be in a different league; online coverage has boomed; libraries have become idea stores; books take a variety of forms, are not always on paper, and can come with all kinds of digital enhancements; festivals have proliferated; authors are more directly connected in many ways with their readers than ever. But through all this there is no doubt that this has been a golden age of children’s books. Every year there are writers and illustrators who make my heart sing. Some of them are in this room. New talent is being found, and published well. Established authors continue to surprise and innovate. Books have got if anything more beautiful and imaginative, against the competition from other media. The classics are still available, being regularly injected with new life by new illustrations, introductions, and jackets. If there are those in this country who do not enjoy reading, it is not a consequence of what books are published. I believe there is truly something for everyone. And the book is as alive as ever.
I may sound Pollyannaish about this; there are of course still things that should change. Public libraries must be defended and promoted, and all the good work being done in them made universal. All schools should have properly stocked libraries, and whole books need to be read in classrooms, and teachers trained about children’s literature, including picturebooks, which I would be very glad to see on the art A Level curriculum. There are opportunities not being taken for using television to enlighten people about children’s books – where is the magazine programme that reflects the variety and excitement of our lives in children’s publishing? Even newspaper coverage, despite new online opportunities, misses stories all the time about children’s books that are worth telling just from a journalistic point of view. And the potential of all kinds of reading to make a difference to those recent sobering literacy statistics has yet to be realised.